Muslim Women Are Fighting Their Own Battles – We Need Allies, Not Rescuers

Posted: March 25, 2019

Muslim women are not a monolith. Not only do we face the regular challenges that all Indian women do (like harassment or domestic violence) but we also have the additional task of fighting stereotypes.

On Women’s Day, we celebrated women and womanhood, we shared stories of courage and determination to inspire and the talk of empowerment echoed all over, but it’s also time to remember the specific challenges of minority women.

As we read the stories, it was confirmed that it is not an easy task to be a woman and to be a Muslim woman is even more challenging. Not only do we face the regular challenges that all women do but we also have the additional task of fighting stereotypes. Muslim women have repeatedly being painted as oppressed and controlled by their families – scores of Muslim women have succeeded in various fields but the stereotypes seem to adhere to us strongly.

From mainstream media to movies, the representation is flawed – we are boxed into a type and breaking this has become one of our biggest challenge in present times. Muslims are not a single entity, we are a heterogenous group with diverse cultures and social status; this aspect is mostly ignored when we are stereotyped. Muslim women come from a diverse circle of social and economy strata but alas the ‘oppressed ‘version seems to pander to the stereotypes.

Muslim women come from rural or urban backgrounds, rich or poor, can be conservative or modern, pious or agnostic, coy or brazen – to bracket them as a single entity who needs to be rescued is a veiled form of partisanship and definitely not helping the women or their cause. Muslim women are fighting their own battles shaped by their own priorities – if at all you want to be their allies, show solidarity to them without being condescending.

Muslim women like all other women need educational and economical empowerment, like all their women face patriarchal pressures, are judged for what we are, subjected to dowry harassment, domestic violence, street and other harassment – we are victims of social evils like any other women. The changing scenario with targeted harassment and lynching of minorities further adds onto the struggle of Muslim women. Given the need to prove their patriotism and added efforts to sensitise the children to bullying in the name of nationalism and still continue to fight against patriarchy – very few can perceive what Muslim women face .

There are ample numbers of success stories of Muslim women who are breaking the glass ceilings, competing and proving their credentials in a competitive world but it looks as though these stories are not adequate to change the perspective. I am not denying the challenges faced by the some women due to lack of proper access to education, early marriages and divorces but aren’t these problems also faced by women across all faiths? These issues are not unique to just one particular community; we also need to acknowledge the hold of the clergy on some sections which also is again not confined to only Muslims. Education and economic empowerment will aid these women to break the shackles of persecution and that is the need of the hour.

What we need is camaraderie and sisterhood from other women minus any patronising; is it too much to ask for ? Can’t we be perceived as individuals without stereotypes? Do we need to repeatedly prove our merit to be treated on par with other women? Will we be ever seen without any stereotypes and the need for being saved by the rest of the womenfolk? Will Muslim women be accepted for what they are without being bracketed or judged?

If being a woman is tough, it is tougher if you are marginalised or a minority. This is the time to acknowledge our struggles without any prejudices and lend a hand in the struggle, for the rise of strong and empowered women across all sections and faiths will only lead to a desirable and bright future for us all.

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