Muslim women in the United States often find some difficulty in navigating the norms and standards of American society while still upholding their religious beliefs and practices. Although some misconceptions prevail about their faith, Muslim women in America are creating a unique path in society that will allow them to live empowered lives as both Muslims and Americans.
Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab, a headscarf, have become the face of Islam in America’s public sphere. It is often perceived that the head covering is a garment of oppression that has been forced upon women by Muslim men. Some view these Muslim women as subservient individuals who suffer great inequalities. The Qu’ran, however, states “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” and as with all of the obligations of Islam, the wearing of a hijab is the choice of the believer. Both men and women in Islam are supposed to dress modestly, and women who choose to wear the hijab do so in obedience to God rather than man. It must be noted that in countries where the hijab is compulsory, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, laws pertaining to hijab are considered cultural and not religious. There is no precedent in Islamic teachings for the enforcement of the hijab.
Contrary to the popular perception that Muslim women have limited rights and privileges, Islam has long given many rights to women, including the rights of inheritance, property ownership, education, and employment outside the home. As in all cultures and communities however, the rights of women are sometimes violated. This is often the result of the misuse of Islam by commingling it with existing cultural norms and traditions that are outside of the faith. In most Muslim communities, women have a strong influence in family, workplace, religion, and society in general.