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Images of Muslim women in West rooted in misconceptions: Expert
Web posted at: 5/9/2007 2:13:1

Source ::: The Peninsula DOHA, Qatar

Media images in the West about Muslim women have been generated from deep-rooted misconceptions about the position of women in Islam, the fifth Doha Conference of Inter-Faith Dialogue here was told yesterday.

Speaking at a session on "complexity of issues in interfaith dialogue," Dr Fawziya Al Ashmawi, a women teacher and scholar from Switzerland urged Muslims all over the world, especially those living in the West to find ways to remove such stereotyped notions.

She noted that baseless traditions inherited from the Ottoman empire have deprived Muslim women from many of the rights and privileges granted by the Holy Quran and the tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The most predominant notions among the westerners about Muslim women are: Islam does not give women equality with men; woman is considered as half of man; Islam has given the right to man to buy a woman giving her a dowry (Mahr); Muslim women are confined in their houses and not allowed to go out and mingle with the larger society; Islam does not give woman the right to divorce.

Fawziya said, majority of the westerners think that those Muslim women who wear Hijab (head cover) are doing so under compulsion from their husbands or other members of the family. They don't not realise that it is the woman's choice in most cases and is not imposed on her by others, she said.

Later talking to The Peninsula, Fawziya said, unlike France and some other western countries, Switzerland has not banned students from wearing Hijab at the campus. However, the secular law of the country has banned government employees from carrying any religious symbols at the work place. Even in the private sector, it is difficult to get a job for a Muslim woman, if she appears for the interview wearing a Hijab, she added.

On the controversial issue of Niqab (face veil), she said, Islam has not made it mandatory on women to wear a face veil. While living in a western society, it is better for Muslim women to avoid it, since it can further isolate them from the mainstream society.

Speakers at the session also included Prof Soufy H Abou Taleb from Egypt, Dr Raquel Ukeles and Joseph Cummings, both from the US and Prof Ali El Samman from Egypt.



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