August 10, 2015
As I’ve stated in this blog before, organized religion irks me. To be more specific, it’s the rigidity of the people who practice organized religion who irk me. Those who read one book once and think they have the right to judge everyone who does not go by that one book. For most religions, there are diverse images of those who practice that religion. However when it comes to Muslims, there is mainly one image. So when people especially Muslims, seek to address and go beyond stereotypes, I feel they should be applauded and not torn down. If someone chooses to adopt a progressive form of religion, they should not be judged, either. When we as a community are divided, how can we expect anyone to take us seriously? When Muslims rightly call out the media for one-sided depictions of themselves in the news, why do some criticize anyone who presents an interpretation of Islam that’s different from the traditional?
Many times, divisions arise between progressives and conservatives. There are many of us who are progressive, yet see the beauty in religion and what its real intent was: to unite and give a code of conduct to live in a humanistic way. Not to pound each other over the head with what our interpretation is. If someone wants to show a more diverse picture of what a Muslim looks like, let them, even if it’s not what you would do. Other Muslims should not accuse someone of not understanding their religion or look down on them because they think they’re buying too much into the Western lifestyle. It’s not for anyone to judge. If those in the Muslim community choose to judge, then we should not blame the media for their one-sided bias when we, ourselves are exhibiting a bias.
Divisions within Islam arose almost as soon as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) passed away, we divided into two separate sects. From those sects, we divided into separate schools of thought. Why did we separate in the first place? Because we couldn’t decide how the next leader would be chosen. If we can’t be united enough to decide how to choose a leader, how can we unite to actually choose the right leader? We can’t even agree on what the definition of a right leader should be. The conflict has deepened so much that we have Sunnis and Shias killing each other all over the Muslim world. Not since the Middle Ages has the Muslim world been somewhat united. A community divided is a community that falls.
Let’s look at the issues surrounding women who don’t wear hijab vs. women who do. Just because you wear a hijab doesn’t automatically make you a pious, modest woman, and just because you don’t wear a hijab doesn’t mean you are not pious and modest. Many times, women who don’t follow tradition are accused of not really being a Muslim or called to give up their faith. Does anyone ever really accuse a man of not being Muslim or call him to give up his faith even when he has committed the most heinous of crimes? Don’t we still call extremists Muslims even when they stone, rape, and rob while maintaining their long beards and praying with their beads? We don’t because of our patriarchal culture. What a lot of us forget is it is actually a sin to call someone a non-Muslim or kaffir. As a matter of fact, you can’t even call someone of a different religion that because they could have submitted their will to God even better than a practicing Muslim. So, why do we do that to each other when someone does something we don’t like or agree with?
I recently read an article in Marie Claire showing 10 Muslim women with different approaches to fashion. In the article, it stated that it “was time to banish the idea of the oppressed Muslim woman.” The article further stated that the women in the piece asserted their autonomy when they got dressed. This article immediately got slammed by another Muslim blogger from muslimmatters.org because she failed to see the relevance to Muslim women. She felt the article made “Muslim women feel implicated in what is being said.” She went on to say that Marie Claire should stay out of the sociopolitical arena.
I don’t understand where this complaint came from. A Muslim writer wanted to address stereotyping against Muslim women due to their style of dress. Stereotyping exists. Muslim women who wear hijab are judged many times for a variety of reasons. Often, it is the only image we see in the mainstream media. The writer from Marie Claire wanted to address the stereotype within her context by showing the diversity among Muslim women. It wasn’t pointing fingers at anyone. It was just offering a different perspective, which I applaud.
So what do we want, people? Do we want one-note portrayals and complain about those, when at the same time, we discredit those who offer another image?
Islam is not in our style of dress, our temperament, or our nationality. It’s in our humanity, and we really need to treat each other with some before we look to anyone else to do that for us.
Until next time… look behind and beyond the veil…
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer