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Breaking myth about Muslim’s women

By Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri
Islam enjoins upon its followers both men and women to dedicate
themselves fully to learning knowledge. There is an ingrained value in
every Muslim, man and woman alike to pursue knowledge and to
learn about God's Truth. Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) advised his
followers to seek knowledge from every nook and corner of the world.
In keeping with this value, Muslim women are continuing to make
headway in the field of science and their participation in terms of
graduation ratios often surpasses that of western women in pursuing
scientific degrees according to UNESCO.

Contrarily, the western media is never tired of churning out

stereotypes and outdated clichés about the Muslim women. Their
favourite propaganda line is that it is because of discrimination
ordered by the Islam that the Muslim women lag behind in the field
of education. The western mind gets swayed in favour of this kind of
reasoning when it is repeated over and over, while the fact is that
truth is other way round. The Islamic message, which stresses gender
equity and rights for women, is often polluted by competing cultural
values that have no basis in Islam scripture.

The quest for knowledge has always applied to women in Islam. God
has made no difference between genders in this area. The Prophet
(P.B.U.H) once said: "Seeking knowledge is a mandatory for every
Muslim (male and female)." (Sahih Bukhari)

History bears witness to the fact that the Muslim women have
achieved numerous excellences in the field of science and technology
thereby opening ways for more exploration through their findings
and dedication. But the western media does not take these
contributions into account nor is it ready to offer any kind of
appreciation for these women who have broken male hegemony in
the field of science and technology.

The fact is that the United States falls behind six Muslim countries in
the percentage of women graduating in science to the total science
graduate population. The countries whose ratio of women science
graduates exceeds that of the United States are Bahrain, Brunei
Darussalam, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Qatar and Turkey. Morocco
exceeds the United States in the ratio of women engineering
graduates as a percentage of the science graduate population.

Traditionally, Muslim women do not face the kind of discouragement

in the sciences to the extent that their Western counterparts do,
which explains why statistics show such high ratios of Muslim women
graduates in science fields as a percentage to the total science
graduate population. However, the fact of the matter is that instead of
any religion injunctions, these are the socio-economic hurdles that
apply equally to both men and women and hinder their way to
advancement. These hurdles reflect themselves in the form of
poverty, illiteracy, political instability and the policy of foreign

Data that explains the real problem can be found by comparing the
total educated populations of countries and regions of the world. A
high degree of illiteracy and low levels of secondary school enrollment
account for the less number of graduates in poorer countries than in
the wealthier regions. In locales defined by UNESCO in their recent
report, gross secondary school enrollment ratios are very low: Africa
(below 40%), West Asia (below 60%), and East Asia (below 75%).

Gender inequity is a fact of life and does exist, but Islam cannot be
singled out for being responsible for it nor can it be relegated to
Muslim countries. Some disparaging gender gaps in higher education
exist where the religion of Islam isn't even practiced by a majority of
the population. For example, only 44% of people enrolled in higher
education in Switzerland are women, Guatemala (43%), Rwanda
(37%), Korea (36%), Bhutan (34%), Cambodia (29%) and
Liechtenstein (27%).

On the other side of the coin, in Tunisia, a country where 98% of

people practice Islam, there were 5% more female students enrolled
than males in higher education. Malaysian women made up 55% of
the enrolled population in higher education, Lebanon (54%), Jordan
and Libya (51%). Bahrain even exceeded the United States in the ratio
of women enrolled in higher education by 6%. If education is
freedom, then it looks like Muslim women in Bahrain are more
liberated than American women.

It is not Islam that threatens a woman's right to education. Rather

these are the governments, which are hostile to Islam, which often set
up roadblocks to prevent Muslim women from obtaining education.
Both France and Turkey are guilty of this type of exclusionary
persecution, all under the false guise of secularism. According to
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a prestigious nongovernmental
organization, these bans exclude thousands of women from
institutions of higher learning each year. A 2004 HRW report states,
"This restriction of women's choice of dress is discriminatory and
violates their right to education, their right to freedom of thought,
conscience and religion, and their right to privacy."

Despite the fact that the Muslim woman is constantly being harassed
about her choice in religion and face the sustained and clichéd
portrayal at the hands of the western media that ridicule her faith and
demonize her culture, there exists an Islamic tradition celebrating
women in science. The Muslims need to remind the world of such
heroic and ground-breaking women contributions in an attempt to
correct their perspectives. Today, the Islamic culture in which women
are encouraged to participate, excel and lead in scientific fields
continues to express itself, not only through statistical data, but in
real, living, breathing and praying people. Although these women are
exceptional, they are by no means the exception to the rule.

Here we have few examples from around the world.

Professor Samira Ibrahim Islam, was nominated as a distinguished

Scientist of the World For the Year 2000 by UNESCO. She made
significant contributions in drug safety by defining the Saudi profile
for drug metabolism. Sameena Shah, presented an innovative
algorithm in computerized cognitive leaning that she and a team of
colleagues developed at IIT Delhi, India. Professor Dr. Bina Shaheen
Siddiqui, has made significant contributions to medicine and
agriculture through her study and classification of indigenous plant
materials. She has been awarded several patents for anticancer
constituents and biopesticides and has written more than 250
research articles. She has been honored with several prestigious
awards including the Khwarizmi International Award of Iran and
Salam Prize in Chemistry.

Historic records show that women participated in science and

medicine in Muslim societies. By contrast, in America, during the
1890's women could not be doctors, and yet, Muslim women doctors
were seen as equals to their male counterparts hundred's of years
earlier, they were even responsible for written contributions in the
field. Also, women like Ijliya, an astrolab builder, were employed as
skilled scientists in Muslim courts. Others made progress in

The data for years 2002/2003 contained in these tables describes the
percentage of women graduates in science and engineering out of the
total science and engineering graduate population in each country,
and pertains to higher-education in science: (Statistics from the
"Global Education Digest" report released from UNESCO Institute for
Statistics 2005)

Woman Graduates in Science

Bahrain 74%,
Bangladesh 24%
Brunei Darussalam 49%
Kyrgyzstan 64%
Lebanon 47%
Qatar 71%
Turkey 44%
Compared with...

U.S. 43%
Japan 25%
Women Graduates in Engineering
Eritrea 4%
Morocco 25%
Compared with...

U.S. 19%
Japan 13%