The Muslim American Women in the American Society
Muslims are generally a minority group in United States whereby were born in America whereas others came as immigrants. They too seek opportunities as well as face similar challenges as their Christian counterparts. In addition, a number of young Americans today were born and brought up in United States as Muslims. This paper will focus on how Muslim American women adapt to the norms that exist in United States that is dorminated by a Christian majority.
The Muslim American women today have been able to fit in the American society taking part in most aspects of professional life. This is because majority of the Muslim men and women who had migrated in United States in the early years were educated since they came from families and societies that valued education highly. However, a portion of the Muslim women came from societies where education was not valued at all and this means that they were unable to access this educational opportunity (Jamal, 2005). Life in America however, for them has been able to provide opportunities as well as freedoms and this is mainly because primary and secondary education in United States is mandatory according to the law. As a result American girls and women are liable to receive education in the American public system and this is often acknowledged by the Muslim women in United States. This is also well supported by various Muslim leaders who have been on the forefront in advocating for accessibility of educational facilities to Muslim women since knowledge in Islam is mandatory as stated by the prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him).
Muslim women in United States over the last years have been empowered on the importance of education which includes knowledge on traditions that are religious as well as their policies as this is helpful in spreading information concerning Islam to the majority Christian dorminated America. However, not all Muslim families support the idea of education to be accessed by their daughters or wives because they feel that this will deter them from accomplishing their domestic responsibilities. In addition, they fear that education will also expose their daughters and wives to the current trends which is contrary to what Islam is all about but generally the support for women education will also expose their daughter and wives to the current trends which is contrary to what Islam is all about. However, the support for women education is high in United States. Therefore the American society has been able to offer educational opportunities to the American Muslim women and this is also a further step in enhancing the incorporation of the Muslim women into the social norms that exist in United States (Haddad, Moore & Smith, 2006).
American Muslim women have the choice of employment opportunities and this also applies to those who feel they need to make an additional income into their family needs. Today, majority of Muslim women in United States work, own cars, access health care as well as shop for their families and for themselves and the other needs are often given to them by the various locally available social centers that offer assistance in guiding and counseling. In Unites States, various national and local organizations have encouraged Muslim women to vote and participate in a number of political processes. United States, although a Christian dorminated nation, has to some extent enabled the American Muslim women to comfortably live according to its societal norms in the American culture (Haddad, Moore & Smith, 2006).
Majority of the Muslim women residing in United States feel that the nation offers freedom in whatever one chooses to perform whether especially when it comes to practicing one’s faith. Other great opportunities that the United States offers is the political freedom, comfortable life as well as economic mobility and as a result many feel that these democratic principles, economic structures and the political principles largely resonates with what Islam is all about (Regula, 1991). Not all Muslims in America find the availability of opportunities as well as citizenship rights in United States that are made available to the American Muslim women to be appropriate and in accordance with the teachings and traditional comprehension of what Islam is. This has led them into remaining conservative and not following the American culture as they fear the culture is against the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and the Quran.
The American Muslim women often differ in the way they opt to identify themselves with the American culture and this is mainly because they have different places of origin, professional and educational involvement, racial – ethnic affiliation, and how they practice the religion of Islam. For those who originate from highly conservative Islamic families and cultures, feel that their children especially women should not be exposed to the prevailing American Culture. American culture is different from the Islamic culture and as a result, most families fear that their daughters and women if exposed to this culture will make them to shift away from Islamic faith. In addition, others have felt that the only way to curtail the exposure of American culture to the Muslim women is by preventing them from taking part in any activities available outside their homes (Charles, 2000).
American Muslim women are a minority group in United States and they face a lot of challenges while trying to fit into the norms of the American society. Ignorance on what Islam is all about is a major obstacle that most Muslim women in America face. Fear, Stereotyping, and distrust are what have resulted from ignorance. Any extremists’ acts committed by a few Muslims are often attributed to have been committed by all Muslims and the loyalty that Muslim in America give to the nation is also questioned and as a result, they have often been the victims of prejudice since the American culture is different from Islamic culture. Muslim women in America also to some extent face discrimination which a gender –based.
The challenge is that these women are often depicted by the media as sex objects who are incapable of any productive work and have no valuable education. They are victims of male domination. In addition, in terms of achieving a high potential career or education, some of the American Muslim women are unable to conquer this. For some who have various careers still earn dollar for – dollar which is less than what their male counterparts earn and moreover these women still have to take care of domestic chores as other family needs but with very little support of whatever form from their husbands. For those who are lucky enough to be in influential positions are very few and much far between. The other obstacle that Muslim American women face is that they are still discriminated upon by Muslims and non-Muslims in America. Wearing a hijab (head covering) for instance is quite difficult for these women as they are often taunted on the streets as well as the workplace and in extreme cases, their work is jeopardized such that they may not be reliable for any job offering (Uddin, 2002 ). In addition, those women in United States who put on hijab are the easy prey since of course they are of course Muslims and as a result they face a lot of grievances such as ignorance about Islam, their physical safety is jeopardized and they also encounter sexual harassment. The other challenge is that Muslim women have often been blamed for all the socio-economic problems being faced by Americans. As a minority group, they have often faced problems relating to racism, segregation, discrimination, gender discrimination vestiges of slavery and religious discrimination (Saliba, 2002).
Moreover, the Muslim community frequently discriminate then own Muslim women especially those who do not put on hijab. This has made some Muslim women to convert into other religions. Other serious challenged faced by Muslim women in United States include abuse of divorce, abuse of polygamy system, domestic violence exclusion as well as isolation from various aspects that concern life in Islam and the child custody laws. Another challenge which families and American Muslim women face concerns the raising of their children in the American society which is far much different from the Islamic society. They perceive the American culture as being dangerous as it consist of secular values that do not correspond to the teachings in Islam even though they acknowledge the citizenship offered to their children and at the same time they are willing to raise their children in the same culture. To overcome this, most Muslim mothers in United States have opted to work along with public schools with the aim of sharing basic elements concerning the Islamic faith and practice together with non-Muslim children and their teachers as well as other citizens who might be interested so that no inaccurate information concerning Islam is portrayed. Providing both school and religious education has also proved difficult for most Muslim women. As a result a portion of the Muslim population have chosen home schooling over public education for their children while others have opted to build their own Islamic schools (Haddad, Moore & Smith, 2006).
In addition, weekend classes or after school classes have also been other options that have been used by Muslim families to educate their children on the Islamic faith. This has been in cases whereby there are no Islamic centers or mosques in the neighbourhood. Muslim women have also been subject of physical abuse by those who think that their way of dressing connects them to terrorist activities (Kopp, 2002). Fortunately a number of Muslim organizations such as the National Muslim Organizations as a branch of Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have come to aid to assist in the Identification of any harassment committed against the Muslim women in United States in their workplaces, public avenues and schools. They often embark on enhancing public exposure for those Muslim women who have been victims of harassment.
The Islamic religion although perceived by many as a religion that oppresses its women, actually has genuine appeal as a way of life. The religion offers quite a range of opportunities which deem attractive to women more than what they experience in western culture. Muslim women have their own rights from the Islamic faith. For instance, the religion acknowledges free and mandatory consent from the groom and bride when it comes to marriage. The holy book “Koran” does not discriminate anybody in its message. It addresses both women and men as one. There are also other reserved rights for women such as the right to inherit property, right to divorce, right to access knowledge as well as right to manage business. When it comes to veiling among the Muslim women, the Koran advocates for women to be modest in their dress code as well as their behaviour. Although Islam acknowledges that man heads the house, matriarchy should as well exist in the houses of these families (Welfe, 2002).
In addition, although these women may be viewed as being quite different from their male counterparts as the western culture depicts them, their differences from Muslim male are generally acknowledged since they also posses their own rights that often are not applicable to their male companions. Muslims in this case the women are very conscious on the globalization of culture. This concern mostly how they feel and this is based on their values and ideas concerning American culture and the Islamic culture. They also find practices such as music and dance as being dangerous to their identity as well as culture. They fear for the exclusion of Islam from any global processes since globally, the political system is largely occupied by United States and therefore America plays a greater role in the decision – making processes that concern other nations as well (Aljunid, 2004).
For those Muslim women who migrate to United States, they carry with them various social, religious, cultural and ideological expectations from their former societies. Americans view a veiled Muslim woman as being a stark and this is contrary to the freedoms available in western democracy. This has further been aggravated by the media who portray Muslim women as victims of oppression from their own religion (Tukimin, 2004). As a result, the western missionaries have in many years attempted to convert the Muslim women into Christianity. However, majority of the Muslim women in America for many years have been able to play various roles as well as contributed a lot in the establishment of their places of worship. In addition, the Muslim women have also largely participated in various activities such as fund-raising which include soliciting fund form door to door, selling baked goods among others (Rashid, 2000).
In conclusion, the Muslim American women have to some extent have been able to adapt to the various social norms that exist in United States especially the American culture but they have also met a number of challenges that conflict with their religion. The challenges often relate to the social, economic as well as political aspects as concerns the Islamic way of life. Although a minority group, the American Muslim women are focused and participate in various development activities since they have the freedom to participate in any activity of their choice and also have a voice in aspects that concern their lives. They have the freedom to choose their dress code and practice their faith, access to education which is available to women and girls unlike those other conservative Islamic states. Despite all these the major challenge that still remains for the Muslim women in America is the prejudice against Islam as well as modernity even though they still struggle to overcome these challenges.
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