Speaker debunks myths of Muslim faith and practices

Eleanor Tapia

A guest speaker sought to dispel myths about the role of women in Muslim societies when she addressed students and faculty on March 25 in Mendel Hall. The speech by Sister Nusrat Rashid was the last in a series of speeches and events the Muslim Students Association sponsored during Islamic Awareness Week.

The Koran is “insistent upon equality between men and women,” Rashid said. It advocates not a unisex society, but a duel gender society in which men and women have their own important roles and responsibilities. A Koranic society aims for “a just and moral working order,” she explained.

Rashid said she wanted to clear up misconceptions about Muslim women’s rights and responsibilities by explaining the teachings of the Koran, Islam’s book of worship.

In a loud, strong voice, Rashid addressed the issue of subordination of women. She noted that the Koran calls for universal legal rights for both men and women, and also supports the pursuit of knowledge by both genders. Rashid earned her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College and her law degree from Temple.

According to Rashid, Islam advocates that women pursue their education – as long as they do not mingle with the opposite gender. She said this offers a natural solution to potential problems with sexual relationships and competition. Rashid discussed the controversial rite of the veil. Western society views the veil worn by many Muslim women as a sign of subordination. However, Rashid said that the veil is not a requirement. Moreover, the practice was not invented by Islam. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible refer to veils worn by chaste women. Rashid said she sees the veil as a “liberating force.” It serves as both a protection and a symbol of dignity and pride, showing that the woman is not a slave to physical beauty.

For Rashid, who works daily alongside men, the veil gives a sense of strength. “It is how you set yourself from other women,” she said. Rashid urged her audience not to hold preconceived notions about the religious practices of others. She noted that her views reflect the principles of the Koran, and not necessarily Muslim principles.

“Look at the reasoning behind a specific practice or role,” Rashid said. “Just the way a Christian loves Christianity, Muslims love Islam. Look at the bigger picture.”