Of Media, Islam and Women

Of Media, Islam and Women

By Syed Shubeena Yaqoob
Media is so much engraved into our society that it is almost impossible not to believe what is being portrayed. The media outlets have reached deep into our rooms which has not only affected our day to day relations but our perception of truth and falsehood. Ironically, there is a consistency in the media outlets to create “Manufactured truths” and “manufactured lies” which have no basis whatsoever.
History is replete, particularly in the twentieth century, with examples where media created “manufactured lies’ to justify wars all over the world. The Iraq war was particularly the media creation where the hype was created around the nuclearization of this country which completely changed the political plane of the Middle-East. There has been enormous loss of human life and created human tragedy whereby millions were displaced.
Media is not only confined to prefabricate lies to malign political opponents but also has gone to the extent of creating a false perception and propaganda about religions as well. Islam, in particular, is being institutionally and deliberately maligned to score political and religious points. Media devised phrases like “Islamic Terrorism’ and “Islamic extremism” which singled out Islam among all the other religions. Edward Said, in his acclaimed book, “Covering Islam” has been blunt in making the point clear how media, especially western media, has remained biased in covering Islam. When the people of other religions are involved in extreme violence, the “religious tag” is removed and it is defined only as ‘Terrorism’ not as “Buddhist terrorism”, “Hindu terrorism”, “Christian terrorism”, and so on.
Besides stitching extremism to Islam, western media has been vocal about the position of women in the religion of Islam. They have provided the false perception about the position and role of women in Islamic society, and order. Their pre-assumption that women are discriminated and exploited under Islam holds no water. It is simply a distortion of history and the role women played in the strengthening of Islam. History disreputes the image they are trying to establish. The first martyr of Islam was a woman, Sumayyah bint Khayyat. Not only Islam evaluated the wretched position of women that was prevailing in those days, but provided them legal, religious, economic and political rights. Before Islam, there is a huge documentation of the problems and the wretched position of the women had in the society. Islam liberated them. No marriage could be consummated without the consent of woman A woman has both economic and political rights in Islam. She was provided property rights, unthinkable in the world upto fifteenth century. She was given right to express her opinion. It is written in golden words how a common woman challenged the order of Hazrat Umer(RA) about Mehr, the second caliph of Islam. Even during the time of Hazrat Umer (RA), a woman was made the inspector of the market to keep check on adulterations in the products and check monopolies.
Western media has particularly been critical of the purdah system in Islam which they interpret it as the veil of subjugation. The media portrayal of purdah system in Islam has to be seen in terms of the cultural, economic and political change that has occurred in western countries. Western countries thought process is based on the ideologies of materialism, conspicuous consumption and sensuality. There, both men and women are seen as objects of sensual pleasures and liberalism is taken to the most extreme which has crossed limits of imagination. In Islam, men and women are given special positions which are not based on the ideologies of sensuality. They both are ordained to protect their honour and have honourable positions in society.
Purdah system premised upon protecting the honour of women whereby they don’t become the commodities of sensuality as they have become in western countries. The western counties are also being pseudo-liberals and pseudo-democratic. On one side, they boast of their countries having the most space for freedom on the other hand a minority is not allowed religious freedom. If a woman chooses purdah by choice, she is being forced to remove it through various pressures, fines and assaults. The purdah system is not only confined to Islam but to other religions particularly Christianity and Judaism. Media, however, remains zipped on this point. They have made it believe that purdah system is confined to only Islam. Media has been particularly responsible for the creation of such an attitude against Muslim society and culture.
Having said this, we cannot blame Europe and western countries for everything. There is a mismatch between what Islam preaches and the position of women in Muslim countries. Women are denied economic, social and political rights. It is imperative that Muslim countries reform themselves internally and be a model for the other nations to follow. Muslim women are to be given all rights that religion has ordained for them. It will result in the development of women as well as the Muslim world in general. Islam has liberated women from historical injustices and time has come the Muslim world reform themselves to portray true picture of Islam which has remained a beacon of hope to the women throughout history for their progress and development.


—The author is a Pursuing Masters in Sociology at the University of Kashmir and can be reached at: [email protected]

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