Birmingham Islamic Society speaker talks religion and women’s rights

Nick Adrian, Staff Writer

Monica Khalaf wants you to know that there are many misconceptions about the way women are treated and represented in the Islamic culture.

On Monday, September 25, the JSU Students for Equality club held its Interfaith Muffin Social where Khalaf was the guest speaker. She represented the Birmingham Islamic Society and wanted to give information on how converting to Islam affected her as a Caucasian, southern woman. The night consisted of a powerful story, intriguing questions about faith and, of course, muffins.

Monica Khalaf is an Alabama native who grew up in a Baptist church. She converted to Islam at the age of 21 after doing intensive research on the subject. She realizes that there are common misconceptions about women’s roles in Islamic society, due in part to general ignorance toward the religion.

“The real culprit for these misconceptions is usually a lack of education,” Khalaf explained after giving examples of how Muslim women are usually depicted as being submissive counterparts to dominating and superior men. She added that it is not uncommon for some women to be treated this way, but it is also not limited only to her religion.

“In contrast [to women’s rights in America], Islam gave women their rights back in the 600’s,” Khalaf said, adding that women’s rights were built into the religion from the very beginning. She went on to explain that Islamic women have the right to inherit and own property, do business, vote and hold office, have an education and are considered equal to men.

“We are not assigned the duties of housework and cooking in Islam;” Khalaf said, “that is a favor that we do for our families.”

She continued to explain that women and men both pray five times a day, and they both must be honest in their business dealings.

She offered one contrast: “The only difference is men are required to support the family and be the protectors.”

Khalaf blamed various types of media for presenting misconceptions about the religion.

“No male or female can be forced into a marriage in Islam,” she said, despite what movies and TV shows may portray.

She added that women can also propose and initiate divorce: “Although divorce is allowed within Islam, it is the most hated thing that Allah allows within Islam.” She mentioned that although it is not encouraged, divorce is allowed under necessary circumstances.

“Another issue people like to bring up is that a Muslim man may have as many as four wives,” Khalaf said after bringing up the common association of polygamy with Islamic culture. But the reality is less than two percent of Muslims practice it. She added that Muslims are required to follow the law of the land in which they live, so “since polygamy is against the law in the U.S.A., we don’t practice it here.”

Khalaf is very proud of her religion and detests the many misconceptions the general public has against women of her culture. She evens stated that if any of those assumptions were true, she would not have been able to speak out on it that night.

Khalaf hoped that her talk gave the audience a better understanding of Muslim women, stating, “We are not abused, submissive servants to men. We’re not afraid of our own shadow. But we’re strong, independent, intelligent servants of God.”




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