Panel on Women in Islam discusses misconceptions, shares experiences

The panel was part of Islam Awareness Week.

The Muslim Students Organization hosted a panel on Women in Islam on Wednesday as part of Islam Awareness Week.

MSO President Taha Hameduddin said the panel was part of the overall goal of Islam Awareness Week to educate the community about Islam and misconceptions, such as the misconception that Islam oppresses women.

Former MSO President Arwa Mohammad acted as a moderator of the panel, which was comprised of sophomore Fareeha Amir, Columbia resident Aziza Rashid and MU Medical student Nabihah Maqbool. All three women were born in the U.S.

The questions Mohammad asked of the panelists included “When and how did you begin wearing the hijab,” “Have you ever felt there are negative misconceptions about the hijab?” and “Why is modesty important to you?”

Mohammad said she believes in order to understand the concept of hijab, you have to go to the root of the word Islam, which means peace through submission to God.

“Hijab is just one manifestation of connection to God,” Mohammad said. “We believe that God conveyed in the Koran that women should cover their beauty to show they are pious.”

Mohammad said the purpose of wearing the hijab is not to follow what a man told you to do, but what God told you to do.

“Hijab is a choice,” she said.

Each woman described her personal experience deciding to wear the hijab. Amir began during 5th grade, Rashid around age 17 and Maqbool during her junior year at MU.

Maqbool said wearing the hijab was something she had wanted to do since middle school, but she did not want the extra attention that came along with it.

“I decided to stop caring about the external factors,” she said. “I did what would make me closer to God.”

Maqbool said deciding to wear the hijab was one of the best things she has ever done. She also said wearing it made her more aware of her actions.

“It has made me step up as an example,” she said. “I represent what a Muslim American woman is.”

Amir said she feels she has a responsibility to break misconceptions people have about Muslim women.

Rashid said the negative attention that is often received by Muslims is frustrating for her and is frustrating for her children. Maqbool described experiences such as being yelled at from cars while walking with her friends.

“The accumulation of micro-aggressions starts wearing on you,” Maqbool said.

Part of Islam Awareness Week also involved Scarves for Solidarity on Wednesday. Mohammad said the purpose of Scarves for Solidarity was to invite those of a different faith or of no faith to wear the headscarf for a day and share their experiences.

MU freshman Eva Prost participated in Scarves for Solidarity and said it was an interesting experience.

“Everyone was looking at me,” she said. “But they looked at the scarf and then they looked away.”

Maqbool said that statement described her first day wearing the hijab. She said she couldn’t tell if they were actually staring at her or if she just felt like they were.

Maqbool said it is amazing when people ask questions, but she also wants then to realize that they are really the same.

“I want people to know you can interact with us normally,” she said. “I just bring a different set of experiences.”

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