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How Do Muslim Women Encourage Misogyny?

Changing the Tide: Internalized Misogyny & Radical Islamic Change From Within

Domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse, misogyny in all its forms – whether in the East or the West, Muslim or non-Muslim, all these diseases are alive and well in our societies.

“Women shouldn’t be dressing a certain way if they don’t want to be attacked”; “Sometimes a mouthy woman just needs to be disciplined in order to learn her lesson”; “Men are just like that, we can’t change who they are.”

These are all common variations of the basic argument of “well, this is life, just deal with it”… but that is simply not acceptable, no matter where in the world you live.

The sad truth is that amongst Muslims as well as non-Muslims, the various diseases that arise from ingrained misogyny in our various cultures is quite often perpetuated and encouraged by women themselves.

Misogyny is something that is quickly and oft-identified within men, but recognized much less within women – after all, how is it that there are women who look down on themselves, who see themselves as less than their male counterparts?

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Affecting the new generations

Whatever the origins of internalized misogyny amongst women may be, the most dangerous consequence is that many women will pass on their unhealthy attitudes about gender roles, sexuality, and more onto both their daughters and their sons.

When a woman silently accepts being verbally or physically abused by a man in her life, and says nothing to her children that this is unacceptable and inappropriate behavior – but might actually do something more along the lines of shrugging and saying, “This is life, this is marriage, women must make sacrifices” – then she is in fact teaching them that it is perfectly acceptable to abuse a woman in any way because it’s ‘normal’ and in fact expected.

From infancy, we laugh off a young boy insistently pushing a little girl around as “boys will be boys,” yet are quick to scold if a little girl shows signs of aggressiveness.

We rarely – if ever – teach our sons about hayaa’ (modesty), respect, lowering the gaze, and spiritual chastity the way we fanatically tell our daughters to cover up and be quiet.

We allow our sons to raise their voices – and sometimes their hands – to us, yet discipline our daughters immediately if they ask a single question.

We keep our daughters close to us at home yet allow our sons to run wild in the middle of the night, teaching them morality is something restricted to women!

We criticize our daughters for not covering their heads in their own homes amongst their mahaarim, and allow our sons to go out in public wearing tight fitting or inappropriate clothing, conveniently forgetting that prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was ‘more modest than a virgin girl.’

When a woman is sexually harassed when simply walking down the street – whether she’s in hijab or not – and her own mother tells her, “It was your fault for being there!” men are taught that there are no consequences to their actions and that they will never be forced to take responsibility for their inappropriate behavior towards women.

We women – and the men in our lives – are the ones directly responsible for raising entire generations of boys and girls, men and women, who have a warped and twisted idea of what morality is, of what it means to be men and women.

In doing so, we have perverted and destroyed the very idea of hayaa’ (modesty) and ‘izzah (honor and dignity) in Islam. A woman’s honor doesn’t come from being held prisoner in her own home or conforming to bizarre cultural norms of femininity; a man’s respect doesn’t come from him oppressing the women around him and abusing his power in order to make himself feel good.

The honor, respect, and dignity of each and every Muslim lies in their subservience to Allah, their fulfillment of His Commands, and their refusal to accept oppression and injustice in any aspect of their lives.

{ You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.} (Qur’an 3:110)

Parents’ responsibility

In the hyper-sexualized global village we live in today, we need to teach our sons and daughters from a very young age what it means to have respect for others of the same and of the opposite gender – regardless of what they are or are not wearing.

Teach our sons as well as our daughters that ‘awrah is about more than the actual physical private parts; it is about understanding that others’ bodies are not objects that we are entitled to, but that Allah is Ever-Watchful and that we need to respect ourselves first and foremost by not allowing our eyes, our tongues, and our limbs to see, speak, or touch that which is prohibited.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:

Emaan (belief) consists of more than sixty branches. And Hayaa’ (modesty) is a part of faith.” (Bukhari)

He also said:

Every religion has a (distinct) characteristic and the characteristic of Islam is modesty.” [Ibn Maajah]

It is imperative that we tie in every single value we teach our children to the most precious of all values: Taqwa. All that we do, all that we are, goes back to how much we love our Lord and wish to please Him.

Part of that endeavor to please Allah and protect ourselves – and our societies – is to strive for Ihsaan (excellence) in every way.

The Qur’an describes Muslim men and women in the following terms:

{The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.} (Qur’an 9:71)

The only way to raise an Ummah of believers who embody this verse, is to raise our children from a young age to believe in the standard of Ihsaan – excellence – and hold themselves to it, especially with regards to how they deal with the opposite gender.

{Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do.And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts…} (Qur’an 24:30-31)

Sexual harassment is a very real problem amongst Muslims, one which – until now – has been allowed to continue due to the very unhealthy attitudes we have been raising our children with.

By returning to the Qur’an and Sunnah, by teaching our sons and daughters while they are still extremely young about the importance of Taqwa, Ihsaan, and Hayaa’, then and only then will we finally be able combat this disease (amongst others) in our Ummah.

We cannot insist that all our gender-related problems will go away if women just sit at home and cover up and remain silent and motionless. Rather, we must know that the condition of our Ummah will never change until we return to the words of Allah and the sunnah of His Messenger (PBUH) and radically change our attitudes to match the values taught within them, instead of trying to twist the Divine Words to fit our own warped mentalities.

Change starts within our own homes, and starts today. Sit down with your sons and your daughters, no matter how old they are, and have a much-needed discussion with them about what it means to respect themselves and others of the opposite gender. Teach them, truly, what it means for the believers, men and women, to be allies of one another.

This article is from our archive, originally published on an earlier date, and now republished for its importance.