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Muslim Women’s Day 2018: Spotlight on UTRGV’s Muslim Women

At only seventeen years old Al-Khatahtbeh started a blog MuslimGirl.com whose target audience would be Muslim women like herself. Last year on March 27, 2017 she created Muslim Women’s Day as a way to celebrate Muslim Women. This year Muslim Women’s Day is once again being celebrated, and this years theme is “Muslim Women Talk Back to Violence” the idea behind the theme is to change the narrative surrounding Muslim women. 

 

I had the opportunity to interview two Muslim women, who are current UTRGV students. I was able to give them the opportunity to talk about the challenges they face as Muslim Women and how they are overcoming these challenges. 

 

 

Ameera Khan

 What is your name, classification and major?

Ameera Khan, Senior, double majoring in Biology and English

What challenges do you face as a Muslim Woman?

It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific challenge I face because it often seems like everything is interconnected. As a woman studying STEM, in general, I sometimes feel that I’m not taken seriously as opposed to men in the field. When people ask me about my career, I tell them that I want to be a physician and help my community, but those questions are often coupled with “what about a family” and whatnot. The patriarchy is strong in our society, unfortunately. Along with this, being a Muslim often poses another challenge for me. I feel that I must work twice as hard to be taken seriously, often because there’s a stereotype that Islam oppresses women or that we’re somehow “backwards”, which by the way, makes absolutely no sense. Just a simple Google search of “inventions by Muslims” will tell you otherwise. There’s also the cruel stereotypes of Muslims being “terrorists” or “violent”, but that couldn’t be farther than the truth.  In the American society, another major challenge is to not be tokenized. While diversity is definitely an important conversation in my eyes, I sometimes feel that people just want a Muslim woman thrown into the mix, whether it’s a panel or a photo-op, just for the sake of saying “hey look at us, we’re diverse!” without actually caring about the issues we face. 

How do you deal with the challenges?

The way I deal with these challenges really depends on how much of an effect it has on my everyday life. If it’s something that could cause potential physical or immediate harm, such as potential violence, I grow more vigilant. For example, after the Nov 2016 election, there was an increase in hate crimes across the nation, especially towards Muslims and other religious minorities, so for me, I tried to only go out during the day and be more cautious of my surroundings. I even skipped one of my evening classes just so I wouldn’t be out after dark. It’s disappointing that in this day and age, we still must worry about this, but it’s not surprising. Our society as a whole has failed its people in so many aspects. For the most part though, I tend to re-envision these obstacles as motivators, inspiring me to do better things, whether it’s serving my community by volunteering or focusing on my studies. If people have misinterpretations about Islam, the religion I practice, I try to practice what my religion preaches—that is, love, peace, justice, and service —so that my actions speak louder than words. 

What is a misconception that the public has about Muslim Women?

I think the greatest misconception is that Muslim women are submissive and without a voice, but I’m here to state the obvious—that such notion is completely false. 

What would you like for people with these misconceptions to know? 

So many people have such wild ideas about what Muslim women are like, yet they can’t even name a single Muslim woman they know. Muslim women are just as diverse in personalities, traits, capabilities, intelligence, and beauty as all other women on this planet. We encompass so many different experiences and come from all walks of life—yes, that means from ALL countries across the globe, too—that there’s no one, singular Muslim experience. Some Muslim women wear the hijab, or headscarf, and some don’t. Some marry, and some don’t. Some have kids, and some don’t. Some study science and some prefer to stay at home. Each experience is different and there’s no sense in painting all Muslim women with the same brush. 

 

 

Valeria Treviño

What is your name classification and major?

My name is Valeria and I am a Junior perusing a degree in Anthropology and Global Security Studies

What challenges do you face as a Muslim Woman?

As a Muslim woman, I think the current challenge I face is confronting stereotypes, there are many misconceptions about women in society that need to be stopped. Some of the misconceptions that people (wrongly) have about me is that just because I am a Muslim woman, I am oppressed. Also, people tend to assumed that because I married at a young age, I was forced into an arranged marriage. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again. I don’t tend to be a person that gets offended quickly, but it does bother me when people treat me differently, even try to take advantage, because they think I am used to be stepped on or treated unfairly. One time that I will never forget was when a classmate asked me about the classes I was thinking of taking during the summer. I told her I was taking online classes during the summer because my husband and I already had plans.To my surprise she said, “oh I’m so sorry, I hope he at least lets you go see your family during the summer.”. I couldn’t process what she had just said. It took me a while to understand what she meant by that. That my husband didn’t allow me to go out? Did I say it wrong? Did she think I was staying under some kind of house arrest by my husband? I wasn’t sure how to respond, I stayed quiet and let that sink in. In reality, I decided to take online classes so my husband and I can have time to travel for vacations.

How do you deal with the challenges?

Like in any case, the best way to deal with a challenge is to speak up. I try to show them in the most educated way possible that I can’t be oppressed. I affirm them that their misconception is misplaced. 

What is a misconception that the public has about Muslim Women?

From what I have experienced, the misconception of oppression. People think I am quiet because I shouldn’t be allowed to talk, but it’s because I am wearing my headphones and who likes to be bothered when listening to their jams?

What would you like for people with these misconceptions to know? 

I would like people to know Muslim women can also be feminist, our religion grants women’s rights in the Quran and instruct us to be kind to each other.

 

The ladies also gave me the information for the 3rd annual Islamic Festival. The festival is a great way to celebrate Muslim Women’s Day (a little belated). It will take place in Edinburg so not too far from campus, and it is open to anyone! 

 

Kennedy Castillo is a student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley majoring in communications. She is the founder of her personal brand Kennedy C Media consisting of KennedyCBlog.com, The Simply Kennedy Podcast and Kennedy Castillo Youtube Channel. She previously worked with Riddle & Bloom as an Amazon Prime Student Ambassador. She is a freelance writer with published articles in Woman2Woman Magazine, Glue Magazine, Lune Magazine, Vinazine and Her Culture Magazine. She is the current Campus Correspondent and President of the UTRGV Her Campus Chapter and previously worked as a Her Campus Chapter Advisor, Her Campus Chapter Expansion Intern and Her Campus High School Ambassador Program Advisor.
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