Muslim Women Activists in North America: Speaking for Ourselves

Muslim Women Activists in North America: Speaking for Ourselves

Muslim Women Activists in North America: Speaking for Ourselves

Muslim Women Activists in North America: Speaking for Ourselves

Synopsis

In the eyes of many Westerners, Muslim women are hidden behind a veil of negative stereotypes that portray them as either oppressed, subservient wives and daughters or, more recently, as potential terrorists. Yet many Muslim women defy these stereotypes by taking active roles in their families and communities and working to create a more just society. This book introduces eighteen Muslim women activists from the United States and Canada who have worked in fields from social services, to marital counseling, to political advocacy in order to further social justice within the Muslim community and in the greater North American society. Each of the activists has written an autobiographical narrative in which she discusses such issues as her personal motivation for doing activism work, her views on the relationship between Islam and women's activism, and the challenges she has faced and overcome, such as patriarchal cultural barriers within the Muslim community or racism and discrimination within the larger society. The women activists are a heterogeneous group, including North American converts to Islam, Muslim immigrants to the United States and Canada, and the daughters of immigrants. Young women at the beginning of their activist lives as well as older women who have achieved regional or national prominence are included. Katherine Bullock's introduction highlights the contributions to society that Muslim women have made since the time of the Prophet Muhammad and sounds a call for contemporary Muslim women to become equal partners in creating and maintaining a just society within and beyond the Muslim community.

Excerpt

I decided to put together a book about Muslim women activists after the tragic events of 9/11. The mainstream reaction in the United States and Canada at the time was, naturally, to question a religion that could inspire such carnage against innocent civilians. This was understandable given Osama bin Laden’s blessing of the attacks and his argument that this kind of terrorist act was an Islamic duty for all Muslims. Most Muslims reject his viewpoint, and 9/11 has been a setback for the Muslim community in North America, which has struggled for many years to overcome the negative stereotypes of Islam as an oppressive and violent religion. Though there was a lot of outpouring of support from concerned non-Muslim citizens in both the United States and Canada, hate crimes have increased, and there has been a rise in anti-Islamic literature and speeches, even at the highest level of the U.S. government. Muslims are now a community under siege, as their civil liberties come under attack in the name of national security.

In all of this it was apparent to me that no one seemed to be aware of the thousands of Muslim women (and men) who devote themselves, often at great personal and financial sacrifice, to what the Victorians called “good works.” And that they did so not in spite of their religion, but because of it—because of their belief that Islam mandates that Muslims work for the betterment of their fellow human beings. In his first State of the Union address after 9/11, President Bush called on Americans to devote themselves to volunteerism. I smarted under that call, since I knew firsthand how many devoted Muslims were involved in the kind of volunteerism he was advocating, and yet no one outside the Muslim community seemed to be aware of this volunteerism. Rather, Muslims continued to be maligned as suspect, as a people committed to “un-American” or “un-Canadian” values. Some of the best-selling books on Amazon.com at the time were (and still are) Muslim-bashing diatribes about the threat Muslims represent to Western civilization. I found the positive reader reviews of these books almost more frightening than the . . .

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