Saturday, May 24, 2014

Different Perspectives

"Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity…" I Corinthians 13:12a

We have heard Muslim women defend wearing the hijab by stating emphatically, “We are not oppressed contrary to what other people think.  We are free.  We choose to wear the hijab.” However, many Christian women remain unconvinced of their statements believing Muslim women are oppressed and controlled. We have two perspectives at work here: one that Muslim women are oppressed, the other that they are free.

Some Muslim women are beaten by their husbands. Christian women rise up in concern and object to domestic violence, even if it is a feather-light slap. And yet, Aliya, was distressed because she wasn’t beaten by her husband. She longed for him to beat her. “Why?” I asked shocked.  “Because then I know he cares about me. If he doesn’t get angry with me or beat me it means he has lost interest in me,” she replied. It was hard to understand her perspective.

“Why don’t you leave your husband?” I asked Saima. I had listened repeatedly to her complaints about his treatment of her. “You live in this country, Saima, where you have rights. The courts would be in your favor. Why do you continue to live in a situation when you could be free from the abuse?” I inquired. “It’s just not me,” Saima said. “Besides Allah knows what I endure. He sees. He will reward me,” she responded. The reward seemed to be deeply coveted more than freedom. We viewed things from different perspectives.

Fadia went to the women’s shelter to punish her husband for his treatment of her. She returned to him after two weeks. It worked.  Individuals rose up in her community who corrected him, successfully shaming him. From her perspective the shelter was a weapon to get power over him and reform him – not to find a way to leave, be safe, and start a new chapter.

Layla, a teenager, was upset by her dad’s control. She decided to report him to the police which got things rolling instantly. She had no idea what she set in motion. From her perspective she viewed reporting to the police a weapon to get her way. She had no intention to separate the family. From her perspective this was how she got some leverage, not a way to protect minors. It was all about power.

The longer we spend time with Muslim women in western nations the more we realize we often view things differently. Most of the time we look at their situations through our democratic perspective which prizes independence and freedom as top goals in this present life. But many of the Muslim women I have known don’t look at life through that lens. They yearn for Allah’s approval and his reward in the next life. Yes, there are tearful and angry complaints and objections for sure but a common perspective I pick up is that the more you suffer the greater the reward in the next life. The next life often looms more important than the present life. Wise is the Christian woman who tries to understand where her Muslim friend is coming from.

Dear heavenly Father, please set the crooked things straight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.