Addressing the plight of British Muslim Women, Inspire, a UK based human rights organization led by Sara Khan, has launched a new initiative to shed light on domineering males in their society and demand women rights granted by Islam hundreds of years ago.
“Our long term goal is to work towards developing a zero tolerance attitude towards gender inequality and discrimination within British Muslim communities which we feel continues to persist unremittingly,” Sara Khan, the leader of the new initiative, told OnIslam.net.
“One reason for this is the lack of open acknowledgment of this reality“.
“Many women do not feel they can openly talk about the denial of right they experience because many are encouraged to avoid bringing shame on their families and communities by speaking,” she added.
Khan was speaking about the new initiative launched earlier on March under the title, “Honor My Voice: Sharing The Voices And Gender Discrimination Of Muslim Women”.
The project, in association with the Everyday Sexism Project is designed to shine a light on an otherwise rarely reported subject matter, often shielded under the guise of respecting cultural positions.
On the initiative website, many stories uncovered the untold story of discrimination against women in Britain.
Aniqa, one of the victims, wrote, “At my cousins wedding the imam jokingly talked about a previous wedding he’d just done where the bride didn’t want to get married and tried to stop the ceremony but her family “talked her back into it” and he married them minutes later. No one said anything.“
Faoud added, “A mosque in Surrey removed the AV system in the women’s prayer area to avoid them hearing the Khutba!“
Britain is home to a Muslim community of nearly 2.7 million.
Islam, as a divine religion, sets down rules that strike a balance between men’s responsibilities and women’s rights.
Woman is recognized by Islam as the full and equal partner of the man in the procreation of humankind.
By this partnership, she has an equal share in every aspect.
She is entitled to equal rights, she undertakes equal responsibilities, and she has as many qualities and as much humanity as her partner.
While every Muslim champions Islam as an advocate of women’s rights, interpretations of faith based on personal attitudes can and do leave an often confused message.
“Khadijah (not her real name – identity protected) told us her dad is an imam and he forced her into a marriage. When she told dad that her husband was raping her, he said it was his right to do so. Her father has also told since she was a child that women are liars,” Khan recalled.
These false interpretations forced many Muslim women to shy away from reporting their problems, fearing it would be associated with their faith.
“In a culture of anti-Muslim sentiment, many of whom the victims are women, this also dissuades Muslim women from speaking out about discrimination and abuse they experience within Muslim communities,” Khan told OnIslam.net.
“We believe that it is possible to fight anti-Muslim hatred and gender discrimination.”
Asserting that Islam grants women equal rights to men, Khan hopes her new initiative would correct misconceptions about her faith in the minds of males.
“Honor is a word not restricted in use to Muslims. It cuts across many different cultures and religions but it also impacts on Muslim women,” she said.
“Often we hear Muslims tell us that women shouldn’t work because it more honorable for them not to, or that they shouldn’t participate in public life because a Muslim woman’s honor lies in her home.”
Khan added that the initiative name, Honor My Voice, was picked to reclaim the true meaning of the word honor to guarantee Muslim women rights.
“We are reclaiming the word honor and attaching to it, it’s rightful meaning – that woman’ voices and choices should be heard and given esteem and respect,” she said.
“There is no honor in firstly denying women their rights on the basis of gender and then secondly, worsening their experience by also telling them to keep quiet about it“.
“We believe voices should be honored, not silenced. We believe their experience should be listened to, not ignored. Honor My Voice hopes to do this. We want both men and women to share their stories with us. They can do on Twitter @honourmyvoice and also on the website www.honourmyvoice.com.”
While many stories come in relaying the negative experiences, hope can still be found. For example, one message received by a man reads: “@honourmyvoice if only us Muslim men followed the sunnah of the prophet (pbuh) no Muslim woman would be oppressed, shame on us!”