Guest Blogger: Sylvia Scheubeck

In recent media discussions, the Islamic religion is frequently mentioned. Especially the role of the woman in this community is striking and contended. The situation of Muslim women depends on the complex of religion, mostly its religious texts, and the culture or rather history, which is shaped around that texts.

Rights and obligations are crucial aspects, which condition their lives in every way. Their position in society is determined by extensive cultural constructions, which imply civil rights, education, work, dress code and life within the marriage.

It is a myth that Islamic woman have no rights at all. And it is also a false statement that they are not worth to gain education or knowledge. In the modern Muslim world, also woman are allowed to get educated. They even get scholarships for extraordinary activities or may become teachers or business women. There is just one instruction they have to follow: The education has to be restricted to their religion. But this doesn’t only proves true for women, this includes all Muslims, men included. Therefore, it is old-fashioned to think that Muslim woman are not allowed to get any education.

Due to their good education, Islamic females have the chance to find jobs in every sector, for example, in the third sector as nurses or doctors. In the textile industry they even hold a monopoly. As a consequence, they have their own financial resources, if they don’t have to deliver their wages to their dominant husband. In employing women, there’s still one thing lacking: special female property rights. This is one thing which definitely has to be improved in the future.

But on the other hand, there is still the shady side of that religious community. Muslim women still have to be liable to historical obligations, which were constructed by men in former times.

A certain behavior and attitude is expected within marriage. For instance, sexuality is a big part of it, although love is often a longsome process of learning. In many cases, especially in former times, girls were agreed by her father to marry strange men, they never ever met in their life until the day of their wedding.

Within the marriage then, it is expected, that the man is good to his wife (i.e. earning money to feed the family) and the woman is good to her husband (doing the household, raising children, having sex with husband). These are standards demonstrated in the Muslim Koran, the “Bible“ of the Islamic world.

Another often disputed obligation female Muslims have to follow is the dress code. Within the Koran it says that women have to lower their gaze and cover their private parts of the body. This also includes the veil, which is probably the most common aspect which comes to mind when talking about disguising Muslim women. Especially in European countries, this is one fact which cannot be accepted. That’s why many Muslims have great problems to get integrated into the Western society.

As the example of the Muslim world shows, gender behavior and culture are huge factors which determine a woman’s life. Although their status in society has visibly improved, there are still great gaps to advance their position considering emancipation and patriarchy.

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2 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Sylvia Scheubeck

  1. Evan Gove says:

    I’m not an expert on the Muslim faith, so I’m going to try and avoid making sweeping generalizations about their culture. I do know enough however, to make the statement that faith and tradition are very important aspects of the nation of Islam. For nearly 2,000 years the Islamic community has been practicing their faith in an extremely devoted fashion. This means that the gender roles defined during the founding of the Islam are still practiced with the same dedication. Since the time of Muhammad, the religion’s founder and most revered prophet, women have been covering themselves with burkas and practicing obedience within the household. The teachings of the Koran are ingrained in Muslim children at an early age, and this is where their reverence stems from. From a sociological point of view, they are conditioned to hold the Koran and its teachings in high regard. These teachings include prayer, fasting, charity, and a pilgrimage to Mecca. I guess my point is that these people have been doing it the same way for a long time now and the advancement of women isn’t going to be an overnight thing. Their reverence to their holy book and their adherence to tradition are admirable, even if western culture doesn’t agree with all of it.

    The saying goes “time heals all wounds.” This is certainly an issue in which time is needed for resolution. You cannot just erase thousands of years of culture and tradition just by saying “women are being treated poorly, stop doing that.” It is going to take time for such a massive ideological shift to occur.

  2. Cory Andrews says:

    As Sylvia pointed out in her post, historical context is critical, and sadly often overlooked. For example, a common misconception about women wearing the veil is that is always has and always will signify some sort of sexual submission or oppression. In 1979 though, Iranian middle-class women veiled themselves to show solidarity with their veiled working-class sisters. This drastically changes the history of the veil, which in effect influences how we examine practices today. I think modern-day Iran mandates that all women wear veils (though I’m not entirely sure) but knowing that has not always been so changes the meaning of the veil as we reflect on women’s rights in Islam today.

    Also, I don’t think I need to cite on the blog, but just in case this info/my thoughts on it are from reading “Under Western Eyes” by Chandra Mohanty.

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