Muslim men must learn to treat women as equals: Sheema Khan

One of the more interesting sessions we held on multiculturalism and faith was a small multi-faith roundtable, with the most interesting exchange being between Sheema Khan and Alia Hogben (Canadian Council of Muslim Women) who challenged some of the more conservative or traditional male Imams present on gender issues.

Both have continued to be outspoken as seen in this latest piece by Sheema:

From 2000 to 2005, I served as the chair of CAIR-CAN, a grassroots advocacy organization that fought discrimination against Muslims. Whether it was a Muslim woman denied employment because of her hijab, or the rendition of Maher Arar, we fought for basic human rights based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This journey opened my eyes to my own double standards: I fought for Muslims to be treated with basic human dignity by the wider society, yet looked the other way when such treatment was denied to women within my own community.

Toward the end of my CAIR-CAN tenure, I could no longer stand the hypocrisy, and decided to tackle a fundamental problem that our community has been content to ignore: the treatment of women as second-class human beings. As chair, I came across incidents against Muslim women that would never have been tolerated had these been perpetrated by a non-Muslim. But if a Muslim did it, well, we would let it go, hoping that attitudes would one day change.

It was, and continues to be, the denial of the fact that many Muslim cultures have a bias against women. Consider the past few years of the Gender Gap Index, published by the World Economic Forum. It continually lists predominantly Muslim countries in the bottom rung of societies that equitably distribute resources between men and women. From the super rich (such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States) to the impoverished, a large chunk of Muslims live in societies where women are shortchanged in terms of development, opportunity and participation.

The bulk of Muslims in Canada are immigrants who naturally bring to this country the attitudes and norms shaped by their culture of birth. These will be transformed by Canadian norms; the transformation varies from person to person. Suffice it to say that many traditional Muslim institutions continue to operate on a patriarchal model, in which women are either unwelcomed or merely tolerated, but are always expected to keep the status quo. Those who demand basic rights are labelled with the “f” word – feminist.

….Some will be critical of the airing of “dirty laundry” during difficult times for Muslims. Yet meaningful discussions about the treatment of women have been avoided for far too long. To what end? What we don’t need is another lecture about the dress and behaviour of the “ideal” Muslim woman. Instead, we need to hear more about men taking responsibility for their actions, and treating women as equal human beings.

Source: Muslim men must learn to treat women as equals – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

2 Responses to Muslim men must learn to treat women as equals: Sheema Khan

  1. gjreid says:

    I don’t like being politically incorrect, but this is a timid, qualified, hedged, and long overdue recognition of a huge problem which is largely ignored. Women’s right are being traded away in the name of ‘political correctness’. The attacks in Cologne Germany on New Years are merely a small example of a vast phenomenon of this militant and aggressive misogyny.

  2. Andrew says:

    I wouldn’t qualify Sheema’s repeated articles in that way. Issue is with others.

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