Distorted images of Islam

Category: Americas, Life & Society Topics: Islam, Women Views: 11674

Distorting Image of Muslim Women

Modern Europeans and Americans assume that Muslim women are invariable oppressed, it is by no means clear that Muslim women have always suffered from disadvantages in comparison with Christians or others. This is an instance in which very recent advances in Europe and America are somehow assumed to be an essential part of the West.

English women did not have full property rights until the Married Women's Property Acts of 1870 and 1882, yet under Islamic law, Muslim women have been guaranteed inheritance and property rights since the seventh century. English women were still chattels of their husband or father when Lady Mary Wortley Montagu traveled to Constantinople in 1716 with her husband, the British ambassador. She was amazed to meet there Ottoman women of the nobility who owned large estates and managed their own property without male interference. Lady Mary even found the veil to be a liberating device that freed women from the prying eyes of men.

Certainly misogyny and unequal rights for women are features that can be found in abundance in the societies of North Africa, the Near East, and much of Asia, but can we honestly say that America and Europe are free of these problems? It is easy and hypocritical to accuse other societies of abuses and inequities when injustices still exist in our own culture. The image of the oppressed Muslim woman can all too often serve as another self-righteous reason for Europeans to congratulate themselves on their superiority.

Anti-Islamic stereotypes

In all the images of Islam that are commonly circulated in European and American culture, little can be found that is positive. Is it possible for an entire civilization to have such negative features, enduring more then 1,000 years across half the world?

Although I am not a psychologist, I cannot help but feel that there is a mechanism of projection operating here, along the lines spoken of by Jungians, in which one's own negative characteristics are projected onto others. There is certainly plenty of evidence of fantasy throughout the history of anti-Islamic stereotypes. Muslims are considered to be violent, yet we do not hear any similar accusations about intrinsic violence in Christianity or European culture; what was it about Christianity  that motivated the world conquests of the nineteenth century or more recent atrocities such as the 1995 massacre of more than 6,000 Muslim men and boys carried out in a single day by Eastern Orthodox Serbs in Srebrenica?

Muslims are considered to have dysfunctional roles for women, yet that emblem of Western technological superiority,  the Internet, is saturated with pornographic images, and the sexualization of women is omnipresent in television, newspapers, and advertising.

Is the West so confidant of its relations between the sexes? Everyone needs to become educated as a media critic nowadays, because the recycling of sensational images is what the communications media love the most, especially when conflict is present.

Islam is a subject that most Americans and Europeans have experienced only through theses negative images and stereotypes. Clearly the time has come to go beyond those images and encounter real human beings.

Excerpted from 'Following Muhammad' by Professor Carl W. Ernst, W.R. Kenan is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of several books on Islam.

  Category: Americas, Life & Society
  Topics: Islam, Women
Views: 11674

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:

In short I express concurrence with Brother Adam of Nigeria. My opinion are the same as his, entirely.


Oh really Babbler yohan?

What is the doctrine of Issa? I have heard about doctrines of paul the self acclaimed disciple modernised and shaped to some doctrines we have today at the "nicea council" of 325 A.D. But i never heard of a doctrine of Issa, a new doctrine OF MAN? No sir prophets [true prophets like Jesus A.S.] don't and can never follow any doctrine of any human.

Get out of ur confused beliefs and get back to reality and back to God, worshipping Him and associating no partners to Him that ye may prosper both here and the hereafter.

If the religion of the last prophet can accommodate the logical, free thinkers like Dalia and Ahmed Asgher, the world need not feel threatened with Islam in the modern time. Then "the Islam" is not in Arabs captivity but is the liberator of the mankind from the world's captivity.

Glory to the God of the whole heaven and earth who Has Anointed Issa at the head of humanity. Glory to the Lord, the blessed Issa (Y'Shua the Messiah) who revealed the knowledge of the only true God. Glory to the Godhead in the acts of creation, liberation of creatures from bondage of creation, and for the door of hope for all mankind that submit in gratitude to the revealed will of God most High by Issa, Y'Shua the Messiah. Then Islam is not another confronting religion cooked up by another racial prophet against the believers from the time of Abraham the father of faithful but a greeting of peace in Issa. Amen.

No prophets after Issa that submit not to the doctrine of Issa have any honor from the true believers. There is no new scripture after the book of revelation seeking to transplant the faith. This is a born again Christians' deep conviction in the Spirit, ministered by the benign, most merciful God.


you are just a white house's cheer leader so far we can see on you.west claim same like you and declare war on it. distroy and occupied afghan but afghan aldies are still wearing veils.why west can't give enought bikini for them? what you should know it in west women can divoce and married as much as they like.even in married you can sleep with man as much as they wish and can carry unidentified son of father. can married after deliver a child without father.
but here is a lady dignity no body accept it. so enjoy the life of sex and city of your with your unknow and uncountables partner.we are very welcome and appriate west to accept some muslim lady like N.A who agreed with you to stay and life in your west. royalty of married man and women are first in our culture and don't try put togather with west value.
By the way thank you so much to west for
to live a mother, wife ,sister with worried her son, husband and bother can detain in concentration camp of west (new german slauther house)in afghan and iraq. may be future in iran,syria, lebanon.
thank you practicing the teaching of you own GOD and killing thousand of thousand of men for freedom. CHEER YOUR WESTERN VALUE.

Daniel, you sound like a cheerleader for the white house, actually more like a parrot repeating lines for them about Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. The blind people are the ones right here in the US; the degradation of women and the numbers of broken families are staggering and astounding yet the white house and you smoke screen the issues plaguing women here by finger pointing other societies. Look in your mirror. And by the way, the shame is on the President of the United States on having to enter and exit through backdoors of kitchen and dumpsters in London and Australia to move about.

For some unknown reason we Muslims are being pushed towards being a group that seeks "pity" in order to gain recognition.

Unfortunately we keep reading the negative news and the negative articles that want us to think we are an oppressed and disliked group.

The truth be told we are a thriving Ummah even in the most "patriotic" of Western nations.

Brothers and Sisters, Masajids are over-flowing with people at the Jumaah prayers and it is not an uncommon sight to see brothers praying outside even on the wet grass. the number of Masajids has increased tremendously in the past 10 years.

Enough of the negative news.

So let us continue to build the Ummah and lead by example with the "best of conduct and by good example".

As a muslim women I know that Allah gave us right to own and freedom to choose, but men took that a way from us. They think women are like children and they don't take care thier families as they should. I visited almost every islamic web site to find a book about a muslim men to bay for my husban so he may treat me better but I can not find one book or artical that is advicing a muslim men about how to be agood muslim husband and threat their wives better then they are financialy or emotionaly. I agree that all women in this atmospher is saffering it does not matter if she is muslim, christain,jew or non-pleivers they all have the same problems. But What I wonder is why muslims don't talk about this they know how to talk about women. As a women who lives in the west all the women I met is complaining about their husbands and how he is taking from her instead of giving her, we all have that broblem. It is very hard for a man to give love or support to his wife but it is easy for him to take from her. Allah (s.h.w) knows everything but the only thing that I would like to riquest from all muslim Imams and Shekhes to right a book about how to be a good muslim husband so we can may be bay for them.
Thank you for the information about Americans and those who think Allah abandoned women they are so wrong. I want know if there is a book that is writtin if you give me the name or where I can find that book I realy appociated. Please respound.

Salam Alaikum to all,
I think this is a well written article. Yes, the media definitely portrays muslims in a negative way. The media also has protryed African-Americans in negative ways as well. This is what the media does. I have a question, and a concern. Why do we as Muslims give the media ammunition against us? I live in Ottawa and am disgusted about Muslims on talk shows here going at one anothers throats. It is really quite sad and beyond my comprehension why we get on t.v. and go one against the other. Secondly, I also think it is disgusting whenever I see an Arab actor playing as a terrorist. Unfortunatley, people cannot distinguish between the good and the bad, the real and the unreal. So, folks think all Arabs are terrorist. Yes, the media is very biased, always was, and always will be. But let us also stop playing into their hands. Let us too stop giving these people something to talk about.
May Allah bless our Umah and the true believers. Amin.

Salam Alaikum,

Sister Fatimah

I am muslim and I absolutely agree with what Daniel said in his/her post. It is interesting that no one here replied to her.

This article is as a picture of US & Western's community thought on Islam & Moslem. Alhamdulillah, most of Moslem are committed with Syariah. We have sense of Iklas. We make plan but Allah make decision. equility of gender, free of speech, justice - for the shake of human right - is not possible to be reached in this finite life. Thats the reason, moslem should have sense of Ikhlas that is a part of Iman. When other community see how islam oppresses women's way of life, but they are happy to obey and submit to the Syariah because they have Iman. So please do not think what you think. Better ask how you can do it. Again because of Imaan... So, do not be a cat busy with its tail.... Wassalamualaikum

The article is well worded, putting challenging cases. But it seems the study is made to compare with the weaker part of Christianity. While nobody can raise voice against charity, modesty, sobriety or piety, it is not a welcome approach to knock the door of heaven with self righteous image. That is the place of God and His children, not the residence of the servants.

The depraved humanity can soon know their weakness and turn to God with repentance seeking pardon in mercy than those trained to be twice more the children of hell trough the observance of rituals or formalism secretly abhorred in the heart.

Clearly, humanity should follow the established, divine principles and direct commandments of God. Why is the extract taken out in the name of a man who sought the glory of the blessed Messiah for himself? How blessed would he have been if he chose to be like one of His apostles to his own people the Arabs and taught them Islam in truth?

Nothing is distorted by the reporters as such. It is just reported as seen for public information. Even this very report is not able to support itself in the eyes of those who can evaluate!

selam alejkum i think it is a wery good articel and aspacially for those people and ,they are wery much,who have a very bad image about us muslim girls,and yes i think like the author of this articel that here is a projection mechanism here in function.

I think it enlighting article, especially for those people whom have an nerrow view about Islam, and muslium women in general. I think it should be published and circulated in the main media.

I accept the fact that women in the western societies are also exploited and abused. That's sad. But women are not undervalued in some muslim countries? How come! some brothers and sisters are too blind or confused... Women in some Muslim countries are completely misstreated and have few or almost not freedom. They can't even drive in SA, or travel without a man consent.. not to mention Afganistan or Iran... Women are forced to marry many times, and usually must submit without a say to their husbands. There are many, many stories of abused women by their husbands in Muslim countries and the denial of basic rights. Not to mention the shame of making women to enter masjids through the back door, many times close to bathrooms or "service" doors, I observed this in America... Only communities still away from wahabies are giving some dignifying treatment...
We are still in me dark middle ages in this regard...

I am a muslim woman and i have lived in muslim country,and i never seen alaw that is against women, but in the America i have seen laws that hurt women so women have more freedom in the muslim world in my opinions.

hi my name is shoban and you are right about how americans and western cultures view islam and that they say we have problems in islam and stuff but they them self have corruption and more violence then us. Back then they would treat their wives like slaves as where muslims would'nt we would respect and treat our wives equally. If you see that christians hardly even follow their own religion they just are christians by name they dont do right not all but most of them as where muslims fear Allah's wrath and are Muslims by heart. Anyways i feel the same way as u do. Thank you for writing this article

Like all religions, the faith is represented by its adherents and how they behave in society at large. Sure, there is a campaign of misinformation that finds its rootes in history but lets face it we are all ashamed at the behaviour of some who wear the name-tag of Islam. Today we are all well-informed and can start taking a close look at ourselves and then project our true beliefs into action right within our neighbourhoods, work places, friends, family and society at large. Each one of us is a representative of Islam or whatever creed we profess. Our actions, positive or negative project that energy. Take the blame with open heart and change your own environment by whatever ways you know best but let it be with kindness. Then let the rest be handled by Allah. Do your bit with love, compassion, smile and kindness and let HIM be the judge. No one gets out of here alive! "Mann mata qa'mat qiyamatuh".

I am a Muslim woman living in the US, and it amazes me what the average American thinks about Muslim women!!! I've seen here in the US women abused (I know a lady that was almost killed by her husband, and she was too afraid to go the police.....A TRUE STORY) but they hide their dirty laundry. I've also seen how much time, effort and money are wasted to impress men in the name of looking "civilized" and not covering up like "we" do. Wearing a scarf is one of the most liberating things I've ever done. So if they really thought about it.....Muslim women are the real free women because we submit to God and not to other humans.