Challenges Facing Muslim Women - Adapting to a Globalized World

By Noormohamed, Nadia Abgrab | Competition Forum, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Challenges Facing Muslim Women - Adapting to a Globalized World


Noormohamed, Nadia Abgrab, Competition Forum


EXECUTIVE SUMMERY

Numerous messages of cross-cultural cooperation are shaping the global image of Muslim women worldwide - reaching communities with roots in hundreds of nations. Whether it is from the bedouins to the boardrooms, furthering knowledge of the world requires nations to know and understand one another. It is said that Islam is a melting pot for all races and ethnic identities, therefore accepting cultural cues is crucial for the stability, success, and sustenance of all Muslim women.

TRADITIONAL VIEW OF MUSLIM WOMEN

Times are changing for Muslim women... or are they? Numerous messages of cross-cultural cooperation are shaping the global image of Muslim women worldwide - reaching communities with roots in hundreds of nations. According to Sam Afridi from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Muslims... reflect the diversity of the Islamic world and the diversity represents a rich mosaic of ethnic, racial, linguistic, tribal, and national identities that stretches from Europe (2.987 percent of the total Muslim population) to Africa (27.23 percent of the total Muslim population) to Asia (69.336 percent of the total Muslim population) and beyond.

Islam places a high status on the responsibility of women. Muslim women play the role of being the backbone and vital element in the establishment of society (Basda, 1998). Historically, the role of the woman was to be a 'queen' residing in the home - to make it comfortable for her husband. Her sole duties were to take care of the children, cook, clean, and cater to her family. "The most important role for a woman is motherhood. This special role that Allah has created for her, affords her honor and respect in Islam" (Hamdam). In scores of less developed nations, this perceived 'slave-like behavior' is still the main mantra. However, volumes of Islamic history state that it was quite prevalent for women to play a dual role: they could be called upon to guard their country in war while at the same time, continue to work or even to maintain a household. Unfortunately, many of those established traditions are still ingrained in countless Muslim regions globally, and have a direct correlation with the culture of the area and not to the religion practiced there.

CHANGING VIEWS OF MUSLIM WOMEN GLOBALLY

Before Muslim women enter into the global village, a framework needs to be formulated to assist them in achieving acceptance within their societies. Women are a greatly underutilized asset for economic development in Muslim countries. Muslims need to take a fresh look at the world and at their collective selves (Khan, 2000) and realize that future success lies in the ability of Muslim women to overcome past repressions and move forward to continue to progress on the world stage. Foreign disturbances and influences experienced by millions of Muslim women are causing many to become more involved in the workplace and in present-day society than ever before. Regardless of the chosen society, there is a shared philosophy which states - a society without the working power of women is an incomplete society.

GLOBAL VIEWS OF TODAY'S MUSLIM WOMEN

As viewed by Al Qaradawy, world citizens who wish to advance in the employment of women and increase their national economy, must look to the integrated civilization of the West. Since women represent half the population, it would be in the best interest of the family (increasing income to offset expenses of living), as well as for society (contact with people and life thereby polishing her personality), for women to work. The Qur'an says, "Hence, do not covet the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on some of you than on others. Men shall have a benefit from what they earn, and women shall have a benefit from what they earn" (4:32). Hamdam, writes that "there are many situations that may make it necessary for a woman to work, such as to assist with the financial needs of the family or to fulfill the needs of the society (doctors, midwives, teachers). …

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