Islam Awareness Week Aims To Promote
April 4, 2006
By FRANCES GRANDY TAYLOR, Courant Staff Writer
Though Islam is viewed by many as a
faith that restricts a woman's freedom, four of every five converts
to Islam in America are women, says Jane I. Smith, who has studied
the experiences of American Muslims in general, and American Muslim
women in particular.
Smith is one of several scholars attempting
to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam this week during
the first "Islam Awareness Week" at Trinity College.
"Bridging the Gap: Islam's True Colors" includes daily
events through Friday that explore topics ranging from the controversy
over images of Muhammad to the pressures faced by Muslim students
on college campuses.
There is a real curiosity among non-Muslims
about Islam and women, said Smith, a professor of Islamic Studies
and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary, and much of
that interest is focused on the veil or the headscarf, and images
of women in Afghanistan who are oppressed by society.
"In America," Smith said,
"Muslim women are not confined to the home, and they have all
kinds of opportunities for participation in public life, in ways
that women don't always have in other places. ... American Islam
for the most part welcomes this, and encourages women to claim their
role in society."
Smith's new book, "Muslim Women
In America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today," is one
of several recently released that look at the lives of American
Muslim women. Smith said American Muslim women are taking new roles
in their faith.
"They are learning Koranic recitation
and meeting in study groups to discuss religious matters. ... It
is definitely the case here that they are taking roles that are
not common" in other places, Smith said. Women are attracted
to Islam by its daily rituals and its "clear message of one
God," she said.
Tuba Nur, a practicing Muslim from
Germany, said the differences between cultural tradition and religion
in Islam need to be better understood.
"Arranged marriages, for example,
are not religious issues; that is a tradition of a society,"
said Nur, a Turkish-German Muslim woman who specializes in Christian-Muslim
relations. Nur will discuss the rights of women according to the
Koran and the Hadith, a book which contains the sayings of Muhammad.
"A woman can work, but she is
not obligated to share her money in the way the man does; she is
not obligated to do housework; if she does it, it will be rewarded
by God as an act of charity," Nur said. "I think there
is a lot about the rights of women that many Muslim women and men
don't always know about."
The recent storm of controversy over
the Danish caricatures of Muhammad showed the broad range of religious
"The image of Muhammad has become
distorted. Many people perceive him in light of current political
events," said Hisham Mahmoud, a lecturer at Yale University
who will speak Wednesday evening about the life and times of Muhammad
and how Muslims view him.
Muslims consider any depictions of
the prophets - from Moses to Jesus to Muhammad - offensive because
all are seen as sacred, he said. "Depictions of God as a man
with a white beard on `The Simpsons' or `The Family Guy' are just
Among the free, public events that
are planned as part of "Bridging the Gap: Islam's True Colors"
at Trinity College:
A lecture by Jane Smith on "American
Muslims: What Are They Facing Now?" tonight at 7, Mather Hall,
Terrace Room C.
A lecture and discussion by Hisham
Mahmoud on "Prophet Muhammad Through Muslim Eyes," Wednesday
at 6 p.m. at ASAA House, 65 Vernon St.; dinner will be served.
"A Conversation on Islam and Women
with a Muslim Woman," with Tuba Nur, Thursday at noon at Mather
Hall, Terrace Room C. Lunch will be served.
Open prayer service and Q&A with
Muslim Chaplain Sohaib Sultan, Friday at 12:30 p.m., Rittenberg
Lounge in Mather Hall.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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