By Marina Ali
Atlanta’s thriving Muslim community got a taste of feminism and religion last Tuesday when Azizah Kahera of Azizah Magazine came to give a lecture on the role of women in Islam.
The event was sponsored by Go Eat Give with the help of a grant from One Region Atlanta. According to Sucheta Rawal, the founder and executive director of Go Eat Give, this event is the “second installation in a series of lunch and learn programs aimed at educating the public about the Muslim population.” Rawal adds “My vision for Go Eat Give is to be known as the single source of everything culture related in Atlanta. We represent not just one, but all different ethnic communities, and would like to see more dialogue among the people from various backgrounds. It is only when we understand and accept each other, that we can hope to create peace and harmony in our global environment.”
Many non-Muslims, and even Muslims who live in the West, have a perception that women in Islam are docile and oppressed. However, this isn’t true for most Muslim women. Thus, this event was aimed to both address and correct these misconceptions.
The actual lecture was the first part. Kahera talked about the Quranic basis of women’s roles and rights. She went over scripture on women’s property rights, education, freedom, dress, behavior, and more. The overall idea of this was to highlight how men and women were inherently the same in the eyes of Allah.
Also, Kahera told the audience about current and past Muslimahs who have graced the cover of Azizah Magazine. From astronauts to beauty queens, they’ve seen it all. One such individual who was discussed at length was Malika Bilal. Kahera mentioned “Malika Bilal is the co-host and digital producer of Al Jazeera English’s The Stream, an Emmy-nominated news talk show centered on online community participation. Bilal was the cover model and subject in Azizah Magazine Volume 7 Issue 4 entitled ‘Change Makers: How they Inspire and Lead’. Bilal shares about her role in reshaping the media. She says that ‘the very act of being in these newsrooms makes a difference. It means someone else is no longer solely in charge of directing a narrative about a group of people they may not know. It means we are the ones actively helping to shape how these stories are told instead of having those stories simply told about us.’”
Additionally, the audience was mostly non-Muslim with a couple of Muslims in attendance. There was a greater proportion of women to men. Everyone was engaged in the question-and-answer style of the discussion that followed the lecture. There was a back and forth conversation between the moderator and the participants. It was a pristine time for people, especially non-Muslims and Muslims who aren’t as well-versed in Islamic law, to ask their questions and find answers.
Kahera loved how the audience “seemed very informed and [she] appreciated the feedback.”
Lastly, the hot topic of the lecture was on attire. One member of the audience asked what was the preferred color, fabric, and method of tying for hijabs. Kahera explained it was a personal style.
There was so much variety in how a woman can wear a head scarf, because “there are hundreds of hijab designers and bloggers out there.”
Additionally, some Muslim women in the crowd gave their own personal reasons for choosing to not wear it. Her earlier talk on the significance of wearing a hijab emphasized how it was a religious duty, not a cultural one. She expounded on this topic extensively: non-Muslims believe that the headscarf is something that’s imposed upon women by patriarchal theocracies, when in reality, it’s a personal choice of the individual.