'Women in Islam' discusses role of women in the religion

The event gave participants a chance to ask questions about Islam.

The Women’s Center and the Muslim Student Organization sponsored an event called “Women in Islam” on Tuesday evening at the Women’s Center.

This program explored the religious and cultural practices of Muslim women. It was led by two female Muslim students: sophomore Farah El-Jayyousi and graduate student Arwa Mohammed.

The Women's Center has a one-time-only program each semester that focuses on an issue. This semester, the program discussed Islam, specifically what it's like being a female student on campus who practices Islam.

The topic was raised by students who were eager to learn more about the religion and the women who practice it, Women's Center coordinator Suzy Day said.

“I myself don’t know much about women in Islam as a staffer (at the center), and I think it is important for me to know more cultures and more women, and to understand their cultures,” Women's Center employee Sarah Rolufs said. “I am grateful that the Women’s Center has this opportunity for me to learn more.”

The key to discussions such as this is the ability to grow and understand new people and cultures, Day said.

“We always want students to learn about new experiences, meet new people,” Day said. “Sometimes we stay in our own communities on campus, so sometimes if you come to these educational programs you might meet someone new or learn something new.”

Both Mohammed and Jayyousi are part of the Muslim Speaker’s Bureau, and both present to many different groups and communities around Columbia.

“Muslims really feel like brothers and sisters to each other,” Mohammed said during the event.

Mohammed began by teaching the group some basic Islamic greetings and providing background information about the religion. The word "Muslim," she said, loosely translates to “one who has submitted themselves to God.”

Mohammed made it clear there is a distinct difference between culture and religion, and that flaws in modern Islam are more of a cultural issue than a religious one. She said the culture sometimes conflicts with faith and that what people see today might not be Islam.

Mohammed also talked about Islam’s Articles of Faith, the 99 characteristics of God and important individuals in Islam, which is based on Islamic belief. When a person mentions another person he or she shows reverence for, the prophet Muhammad said the name should always been followed with “peace be upon him” as a sign of great respect and reverence.

Social empowerment for women in Islam means that they are provided education, the right to marry whomever they want, and the ability to decide if they want a divorce, the speakers said. In Islam it is considered unlawful to keep anyone from knowledge, El-Jayyosi said.

Topics of questions asked by the audience included common misconceptions about Islam, how Muslims feel about gay marriage and how politics in certain countries led to the persecution of Islamic women.

Both women said they wanted to show women have a role in Islam and explain the differences between Islamic culture and the religion.

“We want people to understand that Islam isn’t this scary religion from overseas," El-Jayyousi said. "It is a very American thing, and a lot of the misconceptions that people have are baseless."

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