Dr. Naveed Rehan
SS100 Writing and Communication
17 November 2011
Uncovering the Truth Behind Stereotypes
As the world becomes a global village, people from all walks of life are socializing at an unprecedented level and virtually no one is safe from falling prey to stereotypes. This often dogmatic approach to categorizing people is widespread in mass communication as well from standup comedies and television shows to biased news and politics. As a result, the truth gets buried under several layers of externally influenced presumptions before it even gets a chance to express itself. Statistics show that over 81% of parents would not trust a Hispanic to baby-sit their child, 53% say that Africans are the best at sports and 75% would feel uncomfortable in a setting with a majority of Black people (www.survelum.com). Although stereotypes have some legitimate fingerprints of truth, nevertheless, this alone is insufficient to establish firm ground to judge and generalize people as can be seen with the stereotypical examples of Islam oppressing women, all religious people being ascetics and all African-Americans being good at basketball.
In the post 9/11 era, being a Muslim automatically brings negative connotations in many Western societies and one of these connotations is the casual stereotype that Muslim women are oppressed in their societies from their Niqab (face-veil) to their social lives. Just like any other group of people, there are always outliers in a community such as the cases of honor killings and physical abuse which are highlighted in the media. But just as a car cannot be blamed as the cause of an accident, Islam cannot be blamed for the actions of a few individuals. Failure to distinguish between culture and religion is what causes most people to view Muslim women as oppressed. What most people do not know that the Hijab is actually about liberation rather than Mahmood 2
oppression with the purpose being that women should not be valued only by their physical beauty but rather for character, modesty, honor and respect as well. Some might say that Muslim women may not have the same rights as Muslim men in their household but this is incorrect because Islam has a high regard for women in all aspects of life. As wives, Islam gives women a highly respectable status in the household. Furthermore, the Quran explains: “O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them, unless they open illegal sexual intercourse. Live with them honorably; if you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good” (“The Women” 4.21). As for mothers, it is confirmed in a hadith that mothers are given three times the precedence over fathers with regard to kindness and respect (Al-Hashimi 165). With, Islam ended the pre-Islamic Arab practice of female infanticide with the Quran explicitly forbidding both male and female infanticide (“The Journey by Night” 17.31). The social role of women in Islam is of great significance and in some cases even more revered than the role of men such as parenthood.
Another inaccurate stereotype is the wide held belief that deeply engaging in religion will cause one to alienate himself from his social and economic life. This claim is true to some extent with asceticism being a key aspect of some religions such as Sufism and Buddhism. Zuhd is defined in Sufism as an indifference to worldly appetites, living an austere life, choosing to refrain from sin in fear of God and despising the world’s carnal and material aspects (Gulen 42). Regarding Buddhism, Campos says that freedom is defined as independence from external factors, material possessions, social life and instincts. Keeping that in...