Muslim Women Compete to Preach

This month a new reality show will start airing in Malaysia. Solehah, which means “pious one,” is a reality show where women compete to be named the best preacher. Contestants will be judged on their religious knowledge, personality, and oratory abilities.

What makes this show unusual is the fact that women are competing in a field usually reserved for men. There is already a hit reality show called Imam Muda in Malaysia where men compete to be the best imam. Women can give dawah (call to Islam) but men are often at the forefront. This show, however, demonstrates the role that women play in communicating the faith. Continue reading

If a Woman in a Miniskirt Enters a Mosque, How Should Muslims React?

Jakarta, Indonesia Photo: Antara/Rosa, Panggabean

The question above was recently posed by 28-year-old New York University Imam Khalid Latif during a class session teaching Muslims about Ramadan. Latif, a Princeton graduate and also the youngest chaplain ever of the New York City Police Department, has gained a strong following throughout the Northeast and among English-speaking Muslims around the world through his social justice-oriented khutbahs, or Friday sermons, posted through podcasts. His Ramadan class lectures and khutbahs pose questions rarely discussed within Muslim communities and often hit at the heart of the Prophet Muhammad’s most emphasized point: lead by example and don’t judge others. Continue reading

The “New Faces of Islam”?

Hanaa Ben Abdesslem and Hind Sahli Photo: Alex Cayley

2006 Pulitzer Prize winner Robin Givhan recently wrote an article highlighting the personal and professional journeys of two top international models: Hind Sahli from Morocco and Hanaa Ben Abdesslem from Tunisia. The title of her piece: The New Faces of Islam. Right from the outset, I was worried about the direction of the article. Are there really faces of Islam, and if so, what do they look like? What are the faces of Christianity, the Baha’i faith, Sikhism, etc? Givhan’s troubling language and Orientalist thinking becomes even clearer as the piece continues. Continue reading

On Hitting Wives

Love and Mercy in Arabic

Among the many stereotypes about Islam is that it is oppressive towards women and that it is a rigid and unchanging faith. Often the hijab and covering in general are mentioned  as examples of this oppressiveness. Another example that is used to demonstrate the faith’s attitude towards women is verse 34 in chapter 4 of the Qur’an:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (34)

For many, this verse permits men to hit their wives. While it is true one cannot dismiss this verse and must address the issues that it raises, it is equally important to recognize that throughout the history of Islam, discussion, dialogue, and diversity of opinion and interpretation have all be been prominent features of the worldwide Muslim community. This verse, specifically, has sparked and continues to generate discussions in regards to how men should treat women. Continue reading

Text-Message Divorce

Last month, in Tajikistan, religious authorities banned the use of text messages by Muslim men to divorce their wives. To those not familiar with the practice, this may seem an odd thing to worry about. But divorce by text message has become a problem in Tajikistan because an increasing number of migrant workers there are not returning to their countries of origin and so need a remote method to divorce their wives from home. Text messaging specifically impacts Muslims seeking a divorce because they are being used to issue the “triple talaq,” the process by which a husband ends a marriage by stating his desire for divorce three times.

Continue reading

There Is More to Muslim Women than Veiling

A participant with and without hijab

There always seems to be a fascination with how Muslim women cover. Whether they wear a hijab, a niqab, or the full-on burqa, the intrigue around it never seems to be abate. The interest goes beyond why they cover to why some Muslim women do not cover, and more specifically to why a Muslim woman would put on a hijab and then take it off.

Continue reading

I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim

This Thursday, May 5th, Inside Islam hosts I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim on the UW-Madison campus. As part of a national book tour, co-editor Zahra Suratwala and contributors Amany Ezeldin, Mariam Sobh, and Zainab Alwan will speak about their experiences growing up in American society, as women of color and as Muslims. The talk will highlight the daily challenges that many women face in both public and private spheres. Human rights, Islamic fashion, and faith will also be discussed, followed by a Q&A and book signing. Amany Ezeldin will also participate in an Inside Islam radio show in Madison before the talk.

When: Thursday, May 5th @ 5:00 pm

Where: Gale VandeBerg Auditorium, Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison, Wisconsin

Sponsors: Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates, the UW-Madison international and area studies centers, and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Free and open to the public.

Continue reading

Sexual Extremes Lead to Confusion

Women in Saudi Arabian Mall

In the past two decades, a large number of wealthy and highly educated (mostly) males from Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, etc.) have attended top universities here in the U.S. Many of them leave a land where women are barred from driving, a special police force monitors dress behavior in malls, and literalist wahaabi Islam continues to flourish. When they arrive on university campuses here, many of these young men are overwhelmed by the high visibility and frequency of sex and drugs.
Continue reading

Hijab

Mariam Sobh Photo: isocko.com

Mariam Sobh is a broadcast journalist based in Chicago and founder/editor-in-chief of Hijabtrendz.com. She is also a contributor to a book of essays entitled, “I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim.” Sobh, and other authors from this collection will be talking on the UW-Madison campus on May 5th. look for more details soon on Inside Islam.

When most people hear the word hijab it conjures up images of Muslim women covered from head to toe without a spec of skin or eyes showing.

Hijab is a word in Arabic that translates into a type of “covering.”

When someone observes the rules of hijab, it typically consists of a headscarf and clothing that covers all of the body modestly, leaving only the face, hands and feet exposed.

To make things a little bit easier to remember, hijab is basically the dress code that Muslim women observe. It should be loose and not see-through. It should draw attention away from a woman’s body parts and get people to focus more on her intellect.

Continue reading

Reinforcing Gender Equity in Islamic Law

School girls, Deh Sabz, Afghanistan Photo: Natasha Latiff

Almost a decade after U.S. forces entered Tora Bora, one has to wonder what has come of Afghanistan. Having never been to Afghanistan myself, I can’t comment on the day-to-day reality of the country’s 29 million + people. It is safe to say, however, that the quality of life has not remarkably improved for most, and outside observers wonder what can be done.

Continue reading