Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Muslim Women in U.S. Gain Higher Profile

A recent New York Times article explores the role of Muslim women in the U.S. The article maintains an overall positive tilt, emphasizing how successful Muslim women in America are. The author does a pretty good job of alluding to the discrimination Muslim women face in America and the discrepancies between their empowerment and some of their religion's doctrine. However, the hardships these women must face is perhaps understated in the overall celebratory tone. I am including an excerpt below, but I would love to hear thoughts and impressions from people who have had a chance to read the whole thing.

These [American Muslim] women have achieved a level of success and visibility unmatched elsewhere. They say they are molded by the freedoms of the United States — indeed, many unabashedly sing its praises — and by the intellectual ferment stirred when American-born and immigrant Muslims mix.

“What we’re seeing now in America is what has been sort of a quiet or informal empowerment of women,” said Shireen Zaman, executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a nonprofit research institute founded after the 2001 attacks to provide research on American Muslims. “In many of our home countries, socially or politically it would’ve been harder for Muslim women to take a leadership role. It’s actually quite empowering to be Muslim in America.”

As Najah Bazzy, a American-born nurse and founder of several charities in Michigan, put it: “Yeah I’m Arab, yeah I’m very American, and yeah I’m very Islamic, but you put those things in the blender and I’m no longer just a thing. I’m a new thing.”

It is not always easy. Several of the Muslim women interviewed for this article said they had been the object of abusive letters, e-mails or blog posts.

Yet in their quest to break stereotypes, America’s Muslim women have advantages. They are better educated than counterparts in Western Europe, and also than the average American, according to a Gallup survey in March 2009. In contrast to their sisters in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, they are just as likely as their menfolk to attend religious services, which equates to greater influence. And Gallup found that Muslim American women, often entrepreneurial, come closer than women of any other faith to earning what their menfolk do.

“Muslims coming to North America are often seeking an egalitarian version of Islam,” said Ebrahim Moosa, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. “That forces women onto the agenda and makes them much more visible than, say, in Western Europe.”
Via Racialicious


wiremother said...

You may be correct that Muslim Women are gaining higher profile in America. However I've noticed that they keep to themselves to such a degree that can seem like an attitude of superiority to fellow Americans.

Also they are horrible drivers, I've almost been hit twice on my bike by headscarf-sporting drivers.

Amelia said...

Perhaps seeing groups of minority women "keeping to themselves" comes off as "an attitude of superiority" to certain Americans. And I'd venture to guess that the Americans who feel that way are not minorities and have never been in a position in which they have felt outnumbered and/or misunderstood etc. It makes sense for people to want to congregate and live around those who have similar backgrounds and values. But anyway, I don't even have any facts to support that what you said is in fact true.

And about Muslim women being horrible drivers? That's a generalization based on two of your experiences and those kinds of comments are not acceptable on this blog.