Women in Islam.” Citing the Qur’an, this publication aims to nuance views held by those outside of the Muslim community, while also pointing to the “regrettable practices in some Islamic societies where anti-Islamic cultur(al) traditions have won over Islamic teachings.” Muslim women in the United States are actively engaged in this issue on every level, from academia to small grassroots groups. Azizah al-Hibri, a professor of Law at the University of Richmond, notes that Islamic laws about humanity come from a compassionate God.
Accordingly, she researches issues in which Islamic law is being applied to women in what she views as an oppressive way, in order to find “the legal basis in Islamic jurisprudence for dealing with these kinds of situations.” Al-Hibri’s organization KARAMAH: Muslim Lawyers for Human Rights, is one of many outlets through which she works to understand and promote Islamic civil rights, especially those pertaining to women. Al-Hibri is one of many Muslim women in America assuming active leadership roles both within and outside of the Muslim community.
In seventh-century Arabia, the Qur’an extended to women the right of property ownership and financial independence, prohibited the practice of female infanticide and other abuses, and significantly modified marriage and divorce practices.
While many Americans consider Islam an “oppressive religion” with regard to women, Muslim women often comment on the liberty and dignity they derive from their faith.
And yet, gender in Islam remains a frequent debate in America.
The results of a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, “Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism”, suggest that nearly half of all American Muslims agreed that men and women should be separated when praying in a mosque.
Many Muslim women explain that “true” Islam is frequently compromised by oppressive practices that have their roots in cultural differences or political expediency; general ignorance and lack of engagement with the diversity inherited within the tradition contribute to the perpetuation of these practices.
Numerous Islamic organizations in America are working to educate both the Muslim community and the larger society on this issue, writing articles, op-ed pieces, and publishing pamphlets such as ICNA’s “Status of Woman in Islam” and the Institute of Islamic Information and Education’s “The Question of Hijab: Suppression or Liberation.” The Islamic Center of Southern California distributes the pamphlet “To Separate Fact from Fiction…
In 2005, Amina Wadud, a black American female convert to Islam and a scholar of Islamic studies, led Friday prayers to a congregation of Muslim men and women in New York, breaking the tradition that reserves that role exclusively for men, and stirring a controversial debate about gender in Islam.
Daisy Khan, an Indian-born American Muslim, is the co-founder and executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), as well as the founder of Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) and she is also actively involved in other projects that focus on interfaith efforts and dialogue on Islam in the West.