I totally believe that Islam does not oppress women … but Muslims do. Islam is the only religion that sets the foundation for gender equality; grants women rights that no other religion or social system granted before or even after; gives them the right to handle their own money and inheritance; orders followers not kill their daughters; puts a maximum limit on number of wives a man could marry , and the Quran is the only book that advises “marry one” in a very clear and direct manner. Islam did not say “do not educate your girls or send them to school”, but Taliban did, and slam did not advise “force your girls to marry at 9”, but Yemeni parents did. In fact, Islam advocates that if a girl does not give her free-will consent in marriage, the marriage is void. Islam did not say “cut girl’s hair when she refuses to cover it”, but an Egyptian female teacher did. Islam did not decide that “women have no rights to drive their own cars”, but Saudi Arabian men decided so. Islam did not say that “studying engineering is forbidden for women”, but Yasser Burhami said so. And the examples of Muslims’ oppressions go and go, but none of these examples is really related to Islam.
The current state of what is so-called ‘Muslim countries’ reminds me with Margaret Atwood’s brilliant sci-fi novel, the Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood’s idea is that restrictions create a dysfunctional world; a world that is terrifying, unjust, and oppressive. Islam is not creating such a world. In fact, as Hedgson describes Islam: “Islam is a morally, humanly relevant complex of traditions that assumes the nature of a global force, but started with the actions of individuals in Mecca.” The tolerance, flexibility and justice of Islam are not understood by most of the groups representing and talks in behalf of Muslims, which is to me is a process of hijacking my beautiful religion.
Sometimes I do not blame people who hate Islam. We – Muslims – contributed to this gloomy image of Islam. Muslim women do not know their rights, which granted to them by the creator of the universe. Muslim men who are oppressed by corrupted governments – either secular or Islamic – are taking revenge by oppressing women. The result of Muslim women oppression by oppressing Muslim men – not because of Islam – is attributed to Islam, played by the media to justify the interference of Western countries in the so-called Muslim countries. Marie-Therese Ellis from University of Texas states that: “Early 20th-century literature produced by colonial writers in French North Africa both mobilized and embellished the figure of the African/eastern woman for strategic purposes.” Marnia Lazreg also explains that the French military staged veil-removal ceremonies so that hexagonal reports on these events would promote public support for colonization as a force emancipating women. Wars need causes and reasons to justify military existence in such countries. On the other hand, wars usually target rich areas, why bother attaching poor people who have nothing to offer, and Muslim countries are so rich.
Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him) ordered Muslim men: “Treat women nicely.” He also said: “oppression will be darkness on the Day of Resurrection.” It is explained in Quran that “Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer verily, to him/her We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter) (verse 97, Surah An-Nahl (The Bees)). A beautiful religion that sets unprecedented ground rule of gender equality should not be used as a hanger to hang corrupted encroachment of men who do not understand the true essence of Islam.