Saturday, January 22, 2011

Islam, women and agency

The "veiling of women" has been a point of contention between east and west for centuries. It is sometimes easy to condemn or criticize differences we don't understand when viewed through western eyes.

Global feminists promote an understanding of difference. The key to understanding difference is working one-to-one with women to determine their needs and the best way to negotiate existing societal norms if change is needed, or wanted. Agency plays a role in some cases.

Here's a quote I caught yesterday on NPR's "All Things Considered." The program was about the increasing number of women converting to Islam in Britain.

The quote was from Helen Brooks-Wazwaz. When reporter Philip Reeves asked her about the common belief that Islam oppresses women by requiring them to "cover up," she had this to say:

"It makes me feel actually liberated rather than oppressed. As a woman in a Western society, you're very pressurized to try and wear something that you look your best and that people will look at you and think, oh, they look nice, they look attractive. But in Islam, your body is protected. "

Reeves also interviewed Fiyaz Mughal of Faith Matters, an organization that promotes better interfaith relations.

His comments also reflected a global feminist viewpoint, " We need to stop just accepting the stereotypes about the other and start asking some questions about who we are and where we are going as societies."

Indeed, things are not always as we perceive them to be.

Listen to the "All Things Considered" segment in its entirety here:

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