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Muslim women aim to shatter stereotypes for International Women’s Day

Members of Halifax's Muslim community meet to discuss women in society

3 min read
Danielle Cameron
Keynote speakers
caption Keynote speakers
Danielle Cameron

Ahead of International Women’s Day, members of the public and the Ummah Mosque came together Monday at the Halifax Central Library to reflect on the experience of being a Muslim woman.

“Being a Muslim and a woman makes me stronger,” said Maram Saidi, one of the organizers.

The keynote speaker, Fatima Sidat, talked about Khadijah, the prophet Muhammad’s first wife. Sidat said Khadijah was the first Islamic feminist because she was a wealthy business owner who blazed her own trail, and even proposed to Muhammad herself.

The imam of Ummah Mosque, Hamza Mangera, spoke about traditional dress and the role of women in religion. Jamal Badawi, a former professor at Saint Mary’s University, described the roles of women in marriage and employment.

caption Hamza Mangera and Jamal Badawi
Danielle Cameron

Mangera and Badawi said the Qur’an has been misinterpreted or generalized to infer a certain inequality in Islam.

“There is a passage that discusses the division of inheritance, as women are given half of what men are,” said Badawi. “Some people believe that this equates women to be of the same value — half. This is just false.”

Mangera said the hijab is not a sign of oppression.

“The wearing of hijab and the practice of modesty is to protect women from attention or unwanted actions,” he said.

A member of the audience commented that Muslim men should be taught to limit the “attention or unwanted actions” that they direct towards women. Mangera responded saying that “as a Muslim we believe that there is inherently more beauty in woman than in man and their beauty parts must be protected.”

There are more than 7,500 Muslims currently living in Halifax, a number steadily growing with the increase of immigrants and refugees.

Many of the people in the audience were involved in sponsoring Syrian refugees or involved in programs that have helped them transition to life in Canada.

Saidi said events like this one help to educate people about Islam.

“We wanted to host this because we thought it would be important to show people that we do have our own voice, that we do get educated, we can go out and work, that we aren’t just stay-at-home moms,” she said.

caption Organizers are trying to educate people about Islam.
Danielle Cameron

The group held an event called Hijab Day at the library last fall. People were invited to try on the hijab and learn more about Islam.

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