Female Muslims: Stereotypes & Underrepresentation | Teen Ink

Female Muslims: Stereotypes & Underrepresentation

August 6, 2020
By Huda SILVER, Jamaica, New York
Huda SILVER, Jamaica, New York
7 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious … and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." (Walt Disney)

       From wearing a headscarf to gender segregation, female Muslims struggle to fit in American society. I have personally struggled with identifying myself as an American Muslim because the idea of Islam and American culture often clash. My mother has often declared American culture to be “revealing and shameful”. My sisters and I have been taught not to talk to males, wear modest clothing, and cover our heads, all characteristics which are uncommon in America. Yet the biggest issue for us is not being judged but being discriminated against. The 21st century has brought an abundance of stereotypes regarding the Muslim community. With an increase in the availability of technology, media outlets have seen a surge of influence over society. People of all ages have access to news and social media platforms, common mediums where stereotypes are circulated. Since 2001, Muslims have been labeled and harassed. Stereotypes revolving around Muslims being terrorists grew common. Some men have physically harassed women wearing headscarves or covering their faces. As a result, many young female Muslims have become ashamed of their religion and tend to stray from Islam. Moreover, Muslims have been stereotyped to a point where they feel insecure in their own skin because of Islamophobia. Society has been blinded by their conventional thinking and fails to see beyond what they are taught to believe.       


     Muslim women, especially in developing countries, are confined to their homes, some for protection and others because of their cultures. Yet many Muslim women go above and beyond, achieving goals and creating examples for young Muslim women to follow. Due to underrepresentation in the media, society is unaware of the achievements of these ambitious women. Deceased former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto is a prime example of this. Bhutto was the daughter of former Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She graduated from Harvard University in 1973 and the University of Oxford in 1977, with a degree in philosophy, political science, and economics. Bhutto was elected as the Pakistani prime minister in 1988 and 1993, making her the first female to lead a Muslim nation. In 2007, Bhutto was assassinated by an extremist group, having been shot and caught in a bomb blast. Her most notable achievement was being successful and attaining an education in a male-dominated society while being constantly opposed by male-dominated political organizations. She has been applauded as an icon for feminism and democracy. Despite the challenges of being a woman, Bhutto was able to invalidate typical stereotypes of Muslim women being only housewives and promoted the modernization of Pakistan, focusing on issues like poverty, hunger, and education.


      Bhutto’s fight for women’s education inspired women in Pakistan to take initiative and to make a lasting impression on the country. Dr.Fahmida Mirza, for example, with the support of Bhutto’s political party, is now the Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination and is the first female speaker for the National Assembly of Pakistan. Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai has also commented on Benazir Bhutto being her role model. Yousafzai has stated that the deceased icon has influenced her to recognize the importance of education and reform in Pakistan, stating that her poster of Bhutto has“ allowed me to recognize the potential that I had, and that I can have as a woman, to achieve anything in my life.”


     Inspiration from role models such as Benazir Bhutto helps us realize our full potential that we, as women, must take a stand and make a change! Muslim women are discriminated against and harassed because of stereotypes instigated through media platforms. Through this discrimination, we are disabling Muslim women from unlocking their full potential because of society’s prejudiced perspective. Take a stand! Invalidate stereotypes by educating yourselves on Muslims and stand together to support each other. Only by standing together can we help Muslim women feel represented and empowered.

The author's comments:

 A lack of proper representation has led to the oppression of female Muslims. Huda Paracha is a rising high school junior and an aspiring activist who intends to help women feel recognized and empowered.

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