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Madaar: The point upon which we can revolve for refining Islamic Education
Muslim women and their rights to education is one of the most hotly debated topics when it comes to the religion; from both sides, from within, and almost always from those who are less informed.
Sometimes I become quite cut off from the realities of these debates, because I was raised in several communities (both Muslim and non-Muslim) that did not discriminate between boys and girls when it came to education.
Even now, I live in a Muslim-majority country where Muslim girls are encouraged to work towards tertiary education as much as Muslim boys.
In fact, girls outnumber boys at tertiary level and many women hold high positions in public and private offices. The plight for education is also highly competitive and in our pluralistic, multi-cultural, multi-faith country, all children, girls and boys (regardless of their religion or race), are encouraged to study hard in school and do well at university level in order to be successful.
I don’t think there is much discrimination between boys and girls from the society as a whole and even if there is, it would be based on individual families’ preferences and opinions about whether their daughters are as deserving as their sons when it comes to being provided the opportunities for education.
So when I come across the odd article or comment that blatantly talks about Muslim girls being oppressed, left unlearned and forced to be slaves in the kitchen, I often find that it is written by someone who dislikes Islam enough to associate such beliefs or practices with the religion. And I normally have to take a step back in order to understand where the writer is coming from. Is it really true that this person has studied Islam enough to unravel such strong viewpoints, or is this based on observation of a certain culture, community or country that he or she has immediately associated with the religion, without it being substantiated by Islam in any way?
Islam has sanctioned the right for education for all Muslim women. If some Muslims don’t believe in allowing their daughters to go to school, to learn to read, to participate in debates, to pursue their Master degrees, to succeed in their respective careers, then it’s the beliefs and practices of such Muslims and not Islam. It can be confusing, but it is important to remember that Islam has honored women in ways that society can’t – and Islam is a comprehensive way of life, that is not necessarily followed by Muslims.