Since the rise in concern over the treatment of women in the Middle Eastern countries, women’s rights activists of the western world have been walking the fine line between advocating for women’s rights and respecting religious tradition at the same time.
A common example of this is what many tend to focus on: liberating women from the obligation of wearing a hijab. While this is important to some degree, especially in countries like Iran where women suffer harsh consequences for not wearing one, according to BBC, countries like Turkey have made it illegal in the past for women wearing a headscarf to work in the public sector, which is ultimately an obstacle when it comes to career advancement.
At the roots, however, the activists’ actions are intended to help in the advancement of Muslim women in the Middle East. The question is, in what ways can they better help the women in these countries achieve this advancement? The answer lies in maintaining an understanding and respect for the religion of Islam, while focusing on the major issues such as violence, lack of education and career instability. Using the example of the hijab, focusing on gaining Middle Eastern women the right to choose for themselves whether or not they wish to wear a hijab in public is the most effective.
The most impactful way of reaching out is through donating to organizations like the Voices of Women Organization, that helps to maintain shelters that provide for women that have escaped violence or aid in the advancement of Muslim women in careers. Since the majority of Middle Eastern men still believe women belong in the home, money going directly to programs to help end this stigma is desperately needed. More importantly, although violence committed towards women is recognized as a problem more often today than in the past, the number of women enduring these acts of violence is not decreasing.
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