Will Tallent/ The Pasiano
Islam is not a culture– it is a religion. Muslims are nota race– they are believers of Islam. Muslim women are not oppressed– they areliberated.
Misconceptions are commonly circulated about traditionalIslamic dress and what it means. Muslim students at UTSA speak about thedifferent Islamic clothing they choose to wear and what it means to them.
“Simply plain ignorance,” says Jasmin Ali, UTHSC pre-medjunior, “has misled westerners to believe that Muslim women are oppressed.” Aliwas born Muslim, but her family converted before her birth. As aMuslim-American woman, she understands the struggles of Muslim women in westernsociety and culture.
One false belief is that Muslim women are required bypatriarchal society to be covered, which hinders them from being individuals.The truth is much different from the common misconception that a veil isintended to segregate women from society. In actuality, it is intended toprotect them from society. According to Islam belief, Muslim women are deemedto be of great importance and thus, highly protected.
Discovering that they were not born Muslim but convertedto Islam may be shocking to a misled westerner. The majority of the women whocover themselves whole heartedly accept the covering and find it liberating.Although the Quran, the holy book of Islam, states that women must cover, mostMuslim women actually choose to cover themselves.
“I feel beautiful and like a queen,” said Miranda Mungia,former UTSA student and member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA).Although Mungia was born Catholic, she completed her Shahadah (conversion toIslam) two years ago and has never looked back. She has worn a hijab for alittle over a year and feels that is has brought her closer to her family andto God.
Some Muslim women choose to cover themselves more than thehijab allows. The niqab allows a woman to cover her entire face except for hereyes.
“I hope toone day wear the niqab, Insha’Allah (God willing),” Mungia states, while alsomentioning she would like to wear the burqa, which is the complete fullcovering with only a small screen that allows women to see through, “But inAmerica, it is a bit more shocking.”
“I like it, I like it a lot [but] personally would notwear a niqab because it would be hard to do things in this country. If I movedto another country, I would definitely test it out,” said Ali.
Many westerners don’t fully understand that a half orfull-face covering is not required for Muslim women. The Quran requires womento cover everything except their face, hands and feet; therefore, when a Muslimwoman covers more than what is required, it is typically her own choice and aform of protection.
Muslim women feel that respect is typically given to awoman wearing a covering. “It feels good because you are treated in arespectful manner,” said Ali. She proceeds to tell incidences of how Americanmen tend not to look at her, open the doors for her and try to avoid touchingher or invading her personal space. That respect is the overall goal of aMuslim woman who covers herself.
Some cultures and regions in the Middle East do, however,require women to wear a full covering, such as a burqa, which covers the entireface with only a small screen for the woman to see through. These are culturallimitations and are not always interpreted as a religious requirement of Islam.According to Ali, cultural practices are acceptable, as long as “[One] neverturns cultural practices into Islam.”
Islamic education teaches a Muslim woman the importance ofcovering herself and that modesty is important to show a sign of respect forGod and Islam.
Ali and Mungia are both devout Muslims who have chosen toproudly wear a covering out of respect for themselves and out of devotion forAllah.
More information about Islam and its women canbe found through attending an MSA meeting. Information can be found at theirwebsite: www.utsa-msa.org or by checking out www.islamswomen.com