I was hugely disappointed by the oversimplification of complex societal issues in Mahvish Akhtarâ€™s article â€œSajida and Kateâ€ in the May 10-16 2007 issue of The Muslim Observer. This article generalizes fictional accounts of two women Sajida and Kate to literally stand for the Muslim world and the West respectively through many unsupported, idealistic claims.
The article presumes that all women in Muslim societies have family support networks and can necessarily rely on the aid of community members when caught in difficult situations or unsatisfactory marriages. While it would be wonderful to believe that the world is so virtuous, this is quite simply not the case. Human rights organizations are constantly reporting on instances in Muslim countries when Muslim women plead with their family and friends for shelter from abusive husbands but are instead cast aside when even the mothers of these women tell them they belong now to their husbands.
Moreover, Ms. Akhtar paints a picture in which Muslim women are hardly ever neglected, mistreated, or abused, while Western women suffer from such maltreatment regularly. It is surely the case that Islam sets very specific ethical guidelines by which husbands are to treat their wives; abuse occurs in Muslim societies despite these ideals and it is nothing short of naÃ¯ve to believe that all Muslim men are fair to their wives. This article makes it seem as though all Western women are victims of abuse by terrible, drunken husbands–which is obviously wrong.
A vast problem in the Muslim world is that abuse goes unreported since many Muslim women fear negative repercussions for dishonoring their husbands and families by admitting to their husbandâ€™s wrongdoings. Thus while statistics may show that abuse rates are higher in US or other Western countries, the fact is that more Western women speak up about abuse so as to better their situations while it is Muslim women who keep quiet about their suffering. Women in the West can often gain financial support for their children after a divorce, which is hardly the case in Muslim countries where women are often not granted divorces due to a lack of evidence.
The Hudood laws of Pakistan are a prime example of women being criminalized when in fact they are the victims. The article â€œSajida and Kateâ€ paints a stereotypical portrait of the West and the Muslim world that is quite far from reality. I was upset to see such unfounded and hurtful reportage on the front page of a publication with such an impact on Muslim Americans.
Sincerely, Beenish Ahmed
University of Michigan Residential College Creative Writing BA 2009 Political Science BA 2009