arrow19 Comments
  1. philj
    Jan 31 - 8:23 am

    Now here’s something new, a blog calling for the the support of oppressive practices in one religion in a Jewish progressive movement while fighting for women’s right in Judaism. I think it’s called s double standard. I know a woman who worked as a nurse in Saudi. She fled the oppresive environment after a year while those led fortunate woman are stuck in the Hajib of oppresion

    • Saadia Faruqi
      Jan 31 - 8:35 am

      Philj, I am not calling for supporting oppressive practices at all. The right to dress as she pleases is a fundamental right of every woman, whether Muslim, Jewish or atheist. There is no doubt that some countries, most notably Saudi Arabia, enforce the veil as a way to oppress women, but I and most Muslims are against this practice. If you read some of my other posts you will have a better understanding of what my beliefs and practices as an American Muslim woman are.

      In any case, I feel that you missed the message in my blog post. My post is about Muslim women like me, who cover themselves out of our own free will, trying to rise past stereotypes and asking other women to join with them in increasing awareness, understanding and tolerance. It is a way to understand someone else. Just like when we visit a church or a synagogue for interfaith dialogue, we don’t agree to our hosts’ beliefs, but we do agree to listen to their views and try to understand them better. That is what tolerance is all about.

  2. phil
    Jan 31 - 10:48 am

    I find it kinfvof hard to put my hand aroun a tool of oppression in one country being used as a means of cultural expression elsewhere.

  3. Alana Yu-lan Price
    Jan 31 - 1:11 pm

    Saadia, thank you for this thoughtful blog post and for the work you’re doing to counter the harmful stereotype that the hijab is synonymous with coercion and oppression!

    • Eli
      Feb 03 - 6:37 am

      Alana, What are your thoughts about Orthodox Jewish woman wearing wigs?

  4. Fred
    Feb 01 - 12:20 am

    “Today, perhaps no other group faces more stereotypes than the Muslim woman.”

    Can you back up this extraordinary claim with some evidence, please? I understand it’s probably accepted as ‘politically correct’ to accept such statements at face value these days, but is it really out of line to ask those making such ridiculous claims to back same up with some actual evidence?

    If there is no other group of people in the world subject to more ‘stereotypes,’ then assuredly you’ll have no problem instantly providing thousands and thousands of examples.

    I’m all ears.

    • saadia Faruqi
      Feb 01 - 1:52 am

      Fred, I did add the word “perhaps” to show that it’s not an absolute. I think experts would be hard pressed to prove such information about any one group… how do you measure the degree and amount of stereotyping of one group versus another? I’m counting on anecdotal evidence thanks to my years of experience in interfaith community building. But thanks for pointing it out, I’ll be sure to choose my statements more carefully in the future.

      Did you have a comment to make about the actual content of my article?

      • Fred
        Feb 01 - 7:59 pm

        You mean in addition to the one I’ve already made?

        Sure.

        Muslim women can wear whatever they’d like in my part of America. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Would that the same can be said in certain Muslim countries when it comes to those of other religions who would like to display their faith through certain forms of dress in a similar manner.

        Do you have anything to say about those forms of oppression?

        Your right to proudly declare as a woman that you are a second-class citizen, by wrapping yourself up in medieval garb is truly of no concern to me. Have at it.

        But stop pretending that by doing so, you are in some way the equivalent of those who fought for civil rights, or for women’s suffrage, etc etc.

        You are no such thing.

        • Saadia Faruqi
          Feb 02 - 12:01 am

          Fred,
          What would you like me to say about the freedoms in Muslim countries? Do you honestly think it doesn’t hurt me or any other Muslim deeply to see what’s being done in the name of my religion? I don’t address this in my writings because my goal on the Tikkun blog is bring awareness of American Muslim issues. I am not qualified to write about international affairs, and if you are really interested you can always find many writers who do speak out against the oppression and hatred in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran where both men and women don’t have many liberties. I don’t think you will find many Muslims ready to defend the practices of oppression and inequality there. There are also non-Muslim countries like South Korea and African nations that treat their citizens in a similar manner.

          Let me say here that I’m amazed at the antagonistic attitude of some of my readers. I always have a civilized tone when I write or speak and I’m surprised how some are ready to attack my religion without knowing too much outside of what the media feeds them. For my part, I try to be open to all religions and cultures, because I think that we can all learn something from each other and work together for peace and justice. It’s difficult to do so, though, when you insist on putting labels on me. Your insistence that I don’t know any better and in reality my “choice” to wear the hijab is really no choice but a way of being a second-class citizen reeks of arrogance and superiority. If you search my name on Google, you’ll see that I also write for a number of Islamic publications and call my fellow Muslims out on their unfair and unjust actions as well.

          My sincere hope is that we can all be humble and try to understand each other, because we need for the sake of our future generations to make this world a better place than it is right now.

          • Eli
            Feb 03 - 5:51 am

            Saadia, By dismissing Saudi as a Muslim outlier, you are pretty much dismissing the very heart of the Muslim world. When discussing Catholocism, should wevdidmisd yjd Vatican?

            • Saadia Faruqi
              Feb 03 - 7:00 am

              Eli, that’s a great question! I think it’s important for us to differentiate between the country and its government. Just like we don’t want others to equate the American government and its harmful foreign policies to the general American public or even to the American ideals of freedom and liberty, no Muslim would like to equate the oppressive and extremist policies of the Saudi government with the religion of Islam or the deep reverence we have for that part of the world.

              This tension is explained very well by Abou Fadl in his book The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. It’s widely available and I recommend it for readers who are truly interested in what’s going on in the Islamic world. It’s a very valid problem that we as a Muslim Ummah are going through, just like many Christians who don’t agree with the policies of the Vatican are going through. The need is a greater awareness that while Saudi Arabia as a land holds deep emotional and religions connections for every Muslim, we do not and cannot have the same loyalty to the government there because their policies are directly opposed to the very nature of Islam.

              Thanks again for the question, it made me feel as if you really wanted to know the answer!

              • Eli
                Feb 03 - 8:01 am

                Saudi policies have been consistent for decades with little protest by the wider Islamic world..

                • Saadia Faruqi
                  Feb 03 - 9:55 am

                  Yes I agree. Nobody doubts or debates this unfortunate fact. As Abou Fadl explains in the book I mentioned above, this inaction by Muslims is due to the fact that the House of Saud, the ruling kingdom of Saudi Arabia, because the custodian of the two holiest Islamic sites of Mecca and Medina, and this has stopped Muslims from protesting for the most part since pilgrimage (Hajj) visas are restricted if you speak out. Further, it is almost an act of religious treason, if you will, to speak out against the custodian, since that is a very sacred role.

                  I think the only change can come from within the Saudi land itself. The good news is that this seems to be happening in recent years, with the Saudi people speaking out against oppression and inequality. The rest of the Muslim world is in such a situation that they can only be onlookers as the politics play out.

                  Again, if you really want to understand, the book I mentioned earlier is a great resource.

  5. Israel Sands
    Feb 01 - 3:17 am

    I think any religion or belief structure that requires any observance or behavior based on gender is coming from an unevolved mentality. I think for every woman who chooses to cover up, a thousand would prefer to feel the wind on their face, ride a horse, and who knows, maybe even drive a car. Isn’t there a Muslim blog where you can post your drivel? I’m happy to learn spiritual lessons from every religion, but i don’t see any spiritual value in your post, it’s just the promotion of islam which can afford its own blog, jumping on every platform it can seize. Women need to move forward, not backwards into the shadows.

    • Saadia Faruqi
      Feb 01 - 11:46 pm

      Israel,
      Muslim women in many countries do have all the freedoms you mention… Feeling the wind on their faces, riding horses, driving cars. What you mention are all stereotypes, which is the purpose of the World Hijab Day. I wish you would not judge an entire group of 1.6 billion people based on the practices of Saudi Arabia, where I agree women are oppressed. But for Muslim women elsewhere, including the U.S. the hijab is a religious choice. And those who don’t cover themselves do so with their own free will too. Please do have the courtesy of allowing us our freedoms, which includes dressing in any manner we want.

      Let’s talk about the spiritual lesson you mention. It is unfortunate that you would equate women’s covered bodies with moving backward, and women becoming naked with moving forward. If you look at American Muslim women, they are more educated, more professional and more successful in every field than their America and European counterparts (Gallop 2009). Even in Muslim countries, the number of female heads of states, presidents, prime ministers, and other political figures is much higher than women in America. Yet because of the hijab you see us as oppressed and backwards. We have more empowerment in more countries with the hijab because we refuse to be objectified and sexualized and insist that society judge us based on our intellect than our bodies. To me, that is progress.

      • Fred
        Feb 02 - 3:47 pm

        Where did the above poster say anything about being naked? And you accuse others of putting words into your mouth?

        As for your above comment to me, fair enough. I still stand by my statement that it is ludicrous to equate ‘fighting for’ head coverings with the Civil Rights movement and women’s suffrage, but I suppose we’ll agree to disagree there.

        I hope you enjoyed your weekend.

  6. Larry Moss
    Feb 01 - 8:20 pm

    I’m a Jew and really liked reading Saadia’s post. In fact, if there were things a man could do on this, please do let us know!

    The only thing I kind of disagree with is your point mentioning tolerance: “That is what tolerance is all about.” Tolerance is what you do with something that you are afraid will harm you, as in “tolerating a disease”. I think that we need to learn from Islam not because it’s nice to tolerate another set of people (though this is true), but the main point is rather that Islam (and other faiths) have important things to teach us.

    • Fred
      Feb 01 - 10:05 pm

      Please enlighten us as to the lessons of tolerance for others Islam teaches, and actually practices.

      This should be fascinating…

  7. Larry Moss
    Feb 03 - 5:37 pm

    One could start with Imam A. Rashied Omar: http://www.rashiedomar.com/publications/93-taaruf-islam-beyond-tolerance.html.

    Here’s a short quote. He starts with a quote from the Quran:

    Sura al-Hujurat 49:13

    O Humankind! We have created you from
    of a male and a female, and fashioned you into tribes and families,
    so that you may know each other/recognize each other (not despise each other);
    surely, the most honorable of you with God is the best in conduct.
    Lo! God is Knower; Aware (of all things).

    Imam Omar then goes on to comment:

    This Qur’anic verse enjoins human beings to celebrate
    gender, cultural, and other forms of diversity by way of ta’aruf
    (recognition/affirmation) of each other through
    intimate knowledge, not mere toleration.

    . . . human diversity represents a God-willed, basic factor of human existence.

    Ta’aruf . . . represents for me the litmus test of good religion;
    not how much I can tolerate “the other”
    but rather the extent to which I am able to embrace
    “the other” as an extension of another self.

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