Nusrat Qadir Woman Card

“She is a woman,” Trump told Chris Cuomo on “New Day.” “She is playing the woman card left and right.”

Donald Trump in a speech on April 26, 2016 indicated that his top Democratic opponent's gender was the only qualifying reason she was being considered for the office of President of the United States. He further added to his rhetoric the following day in an interview indicating that “she has nothing else going for her”.  A majority of women were offended rightfully so by the statement, including New Jersey's First Lady Mary Pat Christie whose infamous eye roll to his statement has become the latest viral GIF sensation.

Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton embraced the insult as did thousands of women who used social media to express their views by using the hashtag #womancard. The hashtag was used to point out sarcastically persistent gender inequity in America. Tweets highlighted topics such as pay gap, sexual harassment, and suffrage, indicating that American womanhood is still in its struggle for equality.

This hashtag struck a personal chord within me since often as a Muslim woman I am seen as marginalized based on myths about Islam. The trending hashtag proved to me that American women despite their perceived freedoms continue to be held back by a sexist society. When people ask me why some women are oppressed in Muslim countries, I often reply that it is not Islam that oppresses women but a cultural lack of understanding of what true Islam actually enables for women.

Since the earliest history of Islam to contemporary times, Muslim women have been active leaders within society– a fact often overlooked when discussing women in Islam. The Quran is noted to have reference to the Queen of Sheba as a political ruler who made decisions on behalf of her people. Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) first wife Khadija was a prominent C.E.O. and business maven centuries ahead of modern day struggles to break the glass ceiling. Today there are plenty of examples of Muslim women leadership. For example, women of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have their own women’s association noted in over 207 nations addressing needs of women in spiritual, educational and practical matters. And unlike America, Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Bangladesh to name a few have all had Muslim female heads of state. Yet, in spite of these examples, people still speculate that it is only Muslim women who are oppressed when perhaps it is a matter of failed politics and leadership that maligns women.

Donald Trump’s campaign has been filled with chauvinistic comments that seem to dominate cultural opinions equally throughout the world, including Muslim countries. Despite Islam having long since granted Muslim women their rights freeing them from oppression, there remains in the Muslim world the same mentality displayed by Mr. Trump’s misogynistic statements. Laws for women in some Muslim societies state they are for the protection of women yet invariably suppress them since rules for safety often become excuses for captivity. Lack of agreement in understanding the role of women in Islam is often due to a clash of interpretations of Quranic text even though Islam was the first religion to promote economic and educational rights to women along with spiritual equality. And while Muslim women continue to thrive despite male dominance, they still face much of what American women are facing today in their struggle towards having their rights respected.

Recently the True Islam and the Extremists campaign was launched in America to dispel myths about Islam often used by extremists. This 11 point counter-narrative to extremists groups such as ISIS includes a point highlighting that Islam is a religion that empowers Muslim women. Spiritual Muslim leadership that supports this point also has a positive impact on the advancement of women. One such example is His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Khalifa of Islam, whose leadership has propelled millions of women as foremost female advocates of their communities. These examples hopefully will educate not only the masses but also create a mentality change to those less inclined to believe that Islam actually does grant women their rights.

As for women’s rights in America, the fight seems to be similar to that of women worldwide. The need for respectful leadership towards women is a must in order for any society to claim equality between genders. Hopefully, the battle against oppression towards women can be won, and women everywhere will no longer be subjected to the belief that the woman card is the only reason doors open.

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