(By Jaimie Erker, 1776 Scholar) The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games were defined by numerous moments of scandal and triumph. However, one of the biggest stories to come out of the Olympics was the story of Ibtihaj Muhammad: America’s first hijab-wearing Olympian. The media reported it as a “triumph of progressivism.”
Taken in context, it was a beautiful thing to have a female Olympian compete in a hijab. It demonstrated America’s true religious liberty. However, the media misconstrued it, calling for Ibtihaj to carry the American flag in the opening ceremonies based solely on her religion and even stating that her hijab was “progressive.” Is it truly progressive to promote the idea that a woman should be subject to a hijab or burka? Women in America today, more specifically those in the Feminist movement, should be horrified that the media would ever call a hijab “progressive” dress.
Islamic women are some of the most oppressed women. While the media tries to dismiss the truth about Muslim mistreatment of women, the allowance of sexist behavior in Muslim communities, including those in the west, has created a divide between the Western world and the Muslim world. This misogynistic behavior of Islam has placed women in direct danger in the West. And this isn’t just a culture clash, it’s a religious clash.
The Quran states over and over the lesser status of women; forcing them into the constraints of utilitarian purpose: sex. There is an entire Sura, or chapter, dedicated to the treatment of women in the Quran. The Quran teaches that women should “stay in your houses and display not (your beauty) like the displaying of ignorance of yore” (Sura 33:33). The Quran does not value women in society; rather, it advocates women to stay in the home, pray, and keep the home. The Quran portrays women in society as merely property of men. “Your wives are a tilth for you, so go in to your tilth when you like…” (Sura 2:223). There is no respect for women as human beings, as they are seen as mere objects of pleasure. The Quran even states that men have status over women, that they are a degree above women in society (Sura 2:228). Within Islam, divorce is much easier for the men, especially if the man has not touched the woman. In inheritance cases, the men receive half while the women may only receive a fourth. “O wives of the Prophet, whoever of you is guilty of manifestly improper conduct, the chastisement will be doubled for her. And this is easy for Allah” (Sura 33:30). According to the Quran, a wife of a Prophet will be punished twice as much and Allah will not think twice about it.
As America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the best way to examine the differences between Western and Muslim culture is by comparing foundational texts: the Quran versus the Bible. While women were seen as inferior in the culture at the time of the Bible, God used women throughout to achieve His will on earth. Rahab, Ruth, Esther, and Mary are just some of the strong women throughout the Bible narrative. The Bible praises women and protects their rights. The Bible limits a man to one wife and describes the marital relationship as being the embodiment of God’s relationship with the church: the Church is the bride of Christ. While the Bible values women, the Quran demeans them.
The Quran rewrites the story of the birth of Jesus’ mother, Mary; a story not found in the Bible. Supposedly, a woman (Mary’s mother) from Amran went to Allah and vowed that she would devote her offspring to Him if He blessed her with a child. When this woman gives birth to Mary, she says: “My Lord, I have brought it forth a female – and Allah knew best what she brought forth – and the male is not like the female, and I have named it Mary… (Sura 3:36). What’s odd about this story is that the woman is disappointed to have a daughter. It is very revealing of the culture of Islam: women are worth less than men. The woman is confused when Allah gives her a daughter when she had just vowed that she would devote the child to His will. She thought that Allah would give her a son, who would be respected in the culture.
In the West, women and men are equals. Women are allowed and encouraged to work and live freely. They have rights and are respected, contributing individuals in society. They are not seen as mere sex tools of men. Women in Islamic nations are some of the most oppressed women in the entire world and it stems from the Quran’s portrayal of women. Most Americans, when confronted with these truths, are disgusted by the Islamic treatment of women. And the Islamic world is disgusted by the West’s high regard for women. However, the American feminist movement says nothing about this injustice.
Instead, the leftist media praises how “progressive” it is for an Olympian to wear a hijab, an article of clothing that exemplifies Islam’s low regard for women. The hypocrisy of the left is baffling. America cannot afford to foster this idea that hijabs and burkas are “progressive,” lest American women become pressured into bowing down to the constraints of Muslim culture, for the sake of ‘political correctness’. Western women need to be wary of the left’s attempts to subjugate women into being a “degree less than a man” through their promotion of the “progressive” ways of Islam.
It is time for the women of the West to stand up for their Muslim sisters. A few years ago, a young Pakistani teenager named Malala captured the hearts of millions when she was shot by the Taliban for attending school and survived. She has since won the Nobel Peace Prize and is one of the most fervent advocates for the education of Islamic women. There is a culture struggle occurring within the Muslim community over women’s rights, yet the American feminist movement is not voicing support for this struggle. The true fight for feminism lies in the Middle East. Western women are free women; we need to support our eastern counterparts and fight with them so that they too will gain the same rights and equality that we, in the West, so easily take for granted.