The Muslim Perspective
by Shaheed Williams
Proper treatment of women is something very important in Islam. Islam is a perfect religion, having no flaws or errors whatsoever. Muslims are those who strive to practice this perfect religion but, as they are human beings, may have flaws or make errors in their adherence to it. So there has to be a distinction between what Islam teaches and what you may see some Muslims doing.
In Islam, acquiring knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim. One of the most knowledgeable people in the history of Islam was A'ishah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad. One of the oldest, if not the oldest, schools for girls was founded in Sudan, a Muslim nation. In the Arabian Peninsula, which includes Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Qatar and Bahrain, there are many schools that provide education for boys and girls, all the way to 12th grade. In some of these nations, women-only branches of banks, hospitals and other institutions are a normal part of society. There are schools to educate girls in many Muslim nations in Africa, as well as Pakistan and Malaysia. I have heard that there are places where education for women is not encouraged, due to the goals of those particular societies. But they shouldn't be considered as the norm, nor should their lack of doing so be considered to be Islamic, although they maybe Muslim.
Islam requires that men and women dress in a way to preserve modesty. Of those requirements is for women to cover their hair, with some experts including the face. This injunction is for the preservation of the society and is in no way meant as a harm to women. One of the most revered Muslim women in all of history was Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is often depicted as covering in the manner that other Muslim women do, yet she is never thought of as second-class. Nuns often cover their hair and wear modest clothing, yet they are never thought as being treated as second-class citizens. However when a Muslim nation decides to implement this Islamic mandate into its laws, which it has a right to do and anyone who doesn't like it can leave, its considered to have mistreated women in some way or to have taken their rights away. What about France, not a Muslim nation, and the other nations that want to ban Muslim women from choosing to cover their modesty? Are they treating women as second-class?
Islam does not permit injustice. The acts of some Muslims with respect to throwing acid on women and other such acts of injustice, are not from Islam. They are from culture that exists in those respective places, and the people may be ignorant that Islam forbids such things. The best way to reform such places is for the people to be properly educated in the teachings of Islam.
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