At a difficult time for Muslims, a UK national Muslim women’s organization is working to dispel media stereotypes and help Muslim women combat hate and prejudice, Asian Image reported.
“For me it is a time to be a Muslim woman without fear, compromise or discrimination,” Dr. Siema Iqbal said.
Dr. Iqbal is one of the founders of AVOW (Advancing Voices of Women against Islamophobia) along with Farah Anwar-Bawany, Shenaz Bunglawala, Heena Khaled, and Amanda Morris.
Siema, a doctor and a British Muslim opinion writer said that AVOW is needed now more than ever.
“The term ‘media generated Muslims’ describes the phenomenon of what people think about Muslims based on the media, not from direct experience of knowing Muslims. Most people know few or no Muslims but hold strong views about them based on the information they get from the media,” she said.
“For Muslim women, the problem of ‘media generated Muslim women’ is particularly relevant as the beliefs people hold about Muslim women will be based on the narrow contexts in which they are reported on in the press- as ‘oppressed,’ as lacking capacity to act for themselves, of being in thrall to a ‘misogynistic religion.’
“This results in Islamophobia in terms of direct, indirect and institutional discrimination based on grounds of religion.
“It can be anything from women who wear scarves or people with Muslim names being denied jobs, institutional Islamophobia in terms of experiences of Muslims in the criminal justice system, in education or housing and direct attacks on the streets.”
Engaging Muslim Women
AVOW works on engaging Muslim women in the community, working locally with women’s groups and listening to their concerns to empower women to speak out the challenges they are facing.
Amanda Morris said, “There are too many voices speaking on behalf of Muslim women, but very few of those voices belong to Muslim women. This needs to change. AVOW wants to help push for that change.
“For Muslim women, the public sphere is of acute concern because of the number of instances where hate crime is committed against women who are visibly Muslim on trains, in streets, in shopping malls or high streets, at school gates, on buses etc.
“Whether Muslim women wear the veil or not, all are affected by stereotypes and prejudices which undermine their identity, agency and voice.”
AVOW is committed to moving the voices of women forward in Northeast Indiana through three pillars.
The first one is the Paul Helmke School for Women in Public Life which offers classes and seminars to prepare women to become involved in all aspects of public life.
The second one is “Civil Conversations – Research” which include guided discussions with other women about issues facing women, community and country.
The third pillar is “Women’s Opinion Columns” in the Journal Gazette on crucial issues.
In recent years there has been a significant increase in anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK with 2017 having a record number of Islamophobic attacks.
Tell Mama, a multi-faith monitoring group, recorded over 1,200 reports of Islamophobic incidents, a 26-percent surge from the previous year.
The UK last month reported a 17% increase in hate crimes over the past year, with 94,098 incidents recorded by police, up from about 40,000 reported in 2012.
Islam is the second largest religion in the UK with results from the 2011 Census giving as much as 2,786,635, 4.4% of the total population.