The subject of women and Islam in relation to activism, feminism and misconceptions was discussed Thursday in the President’s Dining Room as part of the Women’s History Month events.
Roughly 40 audience members of students, faculty, staff and community members listened to Fauzia Rizvi, general secretary of the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco and co-founder of the For The People Political Action Committee, speak about Islam and its relationship to women’s issues.
“There are women standing up,” Rizvi said. “There is still discrimination against women, but there are feminists, they are empowering other women through education.”
Rizvi spoke about the many misconceptions about Muslim women, such as how they are viewed as oppressed. Rizvi said that in Islam women are given choices, but it comes across as though they are oppressed.
Rizvi acknowledges that there are Muslim women who are oppressed, but said that it is important to educate people that oppression is not unique to Islam, nor is it the norm. Rizvi said that such occurrences are cultural and have the ability to change over time.
An example Rizvi used was a woman’s choice to wear a hijab.
Rizvi said in Muslim culture the hijab is worn as a sign of modesty and is not forced upon women to wear.
“Wearing it or not reflects a woman’s own personal choice, although it is often seen as a sign of backwardness or subordination,” Rizvi said.
Rizvi told the audience her choice to wear a hijab is liberating for her, and helps her reject pressure from society to look a certain way.
“It gives me the courage to say I am not an object of pleasure,” Rizvi said. “I am a woman that commands respect.”
Another subject discussed was the misconceptions that Muslims, specifically women, face.
Rizvi said that there are wrong impressions due to fear of the unknown. She said that people should look past differences and focus on similarities instead.
“We pray differently but our human values are the same,” she said.
Rizvi added that it is key to have dialogue and try to get out of comfort zones.
“Ignorance is what we’re facing,” Rizvi said. “Our job as Muslim people is to have this dialogue to fight racism and the fear.”
Rizvi ended her speech by urging the audience to get out of their comfort zones, and saying that changing the mind of one person is a start.
Freshman child development major Rukti Islam said that as a Muslim student, she wanted to attend the event as there are not many of those for Muslim students on campus.
“It’s just nice to see people who are supportive to my religion,” Islam said. “I like to see people on campus wanting to learn about my religion.”
Senior education major Brianna Cammarano said that she first exposed herself to Islam in a march to the Islamic Center of Claremont last month.
“It was extremely eye-opening and changed my mind to my preconceived notions,” Cammarano said.
“If people are educated and see that the Islamic religion isn’t about doing bad things, then we can help women get voices and support our Muslim community. I want to be a part of that.”
Christina Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.