The American media has a tendency to portray Muslims in a negative light. Some pity Muslims while others feel pure disdain for them. This statement made by Ann Coulter (2001) following the September 11th terrorist attacks demonstrates the disdain for Muslims, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” (as cited in Arab American National Museum, 2011). While this particular statement was directed at all Muslims, there are also many misconceptions directed solely at Muslim women. In this essay, I will discuss the issue of Muslim women and some of the ways in which their reality contradicts the common media representations of women in that area.
The first common media representation of Muslim women that I will dispel is that they have no rights. In fact, long before Western women even realized they were lacking in rights, Muslim women already had both cultural and spiritual rights (as cited in Arab Women: Potentials and Prospects, n.d.). This is so because to quote Akbar S. Ahmed (1999), “Islam is the religion of equality” (p. 151). Prior to Islam women were controlled by the rules of their individual tribes and some of those tribes provided many rights while others were quite chauvinistic (as cited in Arab Women: Potentials and Prospects, n.d.). The birth of Islam freed the women in chauvinistic societies and as Nouha al-Hegelan (1980) an Arab immigrant to the United States, said “gave them the dignity of humanity and the pride of being a woman” (as cited in Arab Women: Potentials and Prospects, n.d.). The rights provided by Islam include the right to initiate divorce, to inherit property, to voice their opinions regarding home and public life, to conduct business and even own their own business, and to have information and knowledge (Ahmed, 1999; Arab Women: Potentials and Prospects, n.d.).
A second common assumption of the Muslim women is that they are forced into marriage. While it is true that arranged marriages do still take place in the Muslim world, the marriages are not forced upon anyone (Ahmed, 1999). Before an arranged marriage takes place, parents and older relatives discuss different possible matches, but the person, for whom they are searching a mate, is always involved in the discussions (Ahmed, 1999). Then before the marriage can take place, both future spouses must agree to the marriage in front of witnesses (Ahmed, 1999).
A third common media stereotype of Muslim women is that their sole purpose is to please their husbands. Geraldine Brooks author of the book, Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women wrote that Muslim “women are expected to sacrifice their comfort and freedom to service the requirements of male sexuality; either to repress or stimulate the male sex urge (as cited in Arab American National Museum, 2011). This stereotype is heightened by the fact that Islam allows polygamy. While Islam does allow men to take four wives, it is only...