Male privilege is endemic to the Muslim community, even that here at Georgetown.
Let me begin by saying that Islam itself if not misogynistic. But that’s not my current focus, so let’s move on.
In the Muslim community on campus, male privilege is not just an occasional occurrence, but a regular one. This is a newer problem, one that has risen to prominence during the current school year. This has caused many women to become less engaged in the Muslim community, which is very disheartening, but completely understandable. I am also one of those who have forgone spiritual gains to avoid feeling excluded from my faith community. Personally, it hurts more when my spiritual and moral behavior is attacked than other aspects of my personality.
“If I were a woman, I wonder if I would have enough faith to wear the hijab.”
Now, I don’t wear the hijab (the headscarf), but my decision in that regard has nothing to do with a lack of faith. The only time I consistently wore the hijab was during my time in Egypt. I wore it to avoid harassment and doing so felt like the harassers had won. I felt ashamed and disgusted with myself, and the hijab became a symbol of oppression.
Clearly, when I hear people connect the hijab to better or more faith, without considering the wide variety of women’s experience with the headscarf, I feel like my struggles are invisible and invalidated.
And when it comes to gender segregation, I’m used to it. Then a soft-spoken Imam is giving the khutba (sermon) and I, being relegated to the back, cannot hear any of what he has to say. Not wanting to interrupt and seem rude, the women sit in silence, patiently waiting until the Imam has bestowed some sort of spiritual knowledge on our male counterparts, who never even notice that we are left out. At least in Egypt, engineering students and maintenance men worked very hard to set up working speakers to ensure that the women were included fully in the most important prayers.
Here at Georgetown, we have (or have had) a “Boys Quran Circle,” wherein male members of our community are invited to become better at their recitations with help from others, while the women are left to our own devices (aka the internet). In this instance, the women have not just been not included, but we have specifically been excluded from this activity.
I know that this problem is not exclusive to the Muslim community. Through my own personal experiences, I’ve learned that you have to be beaten over the head about your privilege a few times before you even realize that it exists. And I’m not arguing that everyone should take up arms with me to change things. What I am saying: Boys, check your privilege at the musalla door.