She’s probably uneducated and unfulfilled. Captive to her religion, subservient and invisible. These are just some of the inherent stereotypes that are embodied in our modern society, obscuring the Islamic female identity under the guise of oppression and inequality. But did Islam really intend to undermine the female existence? If so, are Muslim women victims of a chauvinistic spiritual ideology or simply a misrepresentation by an unchanging historical label?
‘Women in Islam – Dispelling Stereotypes’, held by the Imperial Ahlul Bayt Islamic society, sought to unmask and challenge this 3-dimensional debate, addressing and teasing those very stereotypes that are classically conditioned in our society. The event, held on Monday 18th October, attracted an audience of many demographics, faiths and ethnicities. Led by world-renowned speakers, the audience were captivated in an interplay of historical and modern referencing.
Amina Inloes, who has an MA in Islamic Studies and currently teaches at the Islamic College for Advanced Studies, London, resurrected the silenced voice of the Muslim woman who was proactive, influential and well established even at the advent of the life of Prophet Mohammed, the rebirth of whom is testament alone to the strong female presence in Islam. Similarly, Shelina Janmohamed, named by The Times as one of the UK’s 13 most influential Muslim women, challenged the myths that stem from this polar debate. As this award-winning author, journalist and blogger explored the levels of the Islamic gender hierarchy, and the presumed absence of female autonomy, it became evident that the roles of men and women in Islam were never intended to be consanguineous but rather complementary to one another, in perfect synchrony. Thus, to argue that the only escape for a Muslim woman is to abandon Islam, is unethical and misguided.
The discussion was topical, current and academically debated, exploring the many avenues of this tentative topic in an innovative and intricate manner. Whether or nor the stereotypes that arguably define Muslim women have been eradicated is difficult to ascertain or judge. However, in all matters of stigma, it is indubitable that open discussion and freedom of speech are far more effective at uprooting and remoulding misconceived ideas, and it is fair to say that the Ahlul Bayt Society’s event achieved this.