Islamophobia harms muslim women

My older sister converted to Islam five years ago and started wearing a hijab. Growing up in a Protestant household, my sister didn’t know how our family would react. At first, some family members were confused— only because they knew nothing about Islam and felt she was going against the religion she grew up with. My family quickly learned about Islam and started to understand the religion, and my sister felt comfortable and accepted in our household, as she should. However, unfortunately not everybody has shown my sister the same love and acceptance as my family has.

The same year my sister started practicing Islam, she was seeing a therapist. She told her therapist about her newfound interest in Islam, assuming her therapist would listen and accept what she had to say. Her therapist asked her, “Do you know why Muslim women wear hijabs? They cover their heads because men can hit them anywhere on their bodies, not their faces. Their face is the only part of their body exposed to remind men where they can and cannot hit their women.” My sister said nothing; she walked out of the session and has not seen that woman since. 

There is no doubt that Muslim women face discrimination in America. Most of the discrimination these women face is solely based on negative stereotypes. One of the most harmful stereotypes for Muslim women is that “Islam discriminates against women”— one of the most common misconceptions.

All women in the United States face gender-based discrimination, regardless of their religion. However, a 2021 poll shows Muslim women are more likely to experience religious (69%) and racial discrimination (75%) compared to women in the general public (26%, 40%).

Image taken from ISPU

Similarly, another negative stereotype is that Muslim women are ‘forced’ to wear hijabs, and it is not a choice. For most Muslim women in America, wearing a hijab is a personal choice and a way to make their “faith and identity known to others.”

Image taken from ISPU

Muslim women have the right to practice and embrace their religion just as much as anyone in the United States. Stereotypes contribute to the dysfunctional class system within the U.S. and can be extremely harmful to groups of people. Often, Islamophobia in America centers around “saving” women from the “restraints” of their religion, which is a huge misunderstanding. I believe these negative stereotypes stem from ignorance and lack of education, and I hope that one day Americans will be more aware of minority religions and cultures. I want to hear from my readers: In what ways can we combat negative stereotypes around Muslim women and men?

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