Zohra Sarwari spoke to a nearly full lecture room about the obscurities in the media and present day culture of Muslim women in a speech entitled "Are Muslim Women Oppressed?" April 22.
Dressed in a hijab and jilbab, which are standard dress code for most Muslim women, Sarwari began her speech by engaging the audience and asking them to open their minds, even if only for that one hour.
"Growth demands a temporary surrender of security," a quote on her PowerPoint presentation read.
The presentation was built around three main points, which are all common misconceptions of women and the religion of Islam, Sarwari said. The first misconception is why the women dress the way they do, the second what the status of a Muslim woman in Islam and third is what the different roles of a Muslim woman are.
The women don’t dress the way they do because of savage men, government or even tradition, Sarwari said. They dress conservatively to be closer to their lord. It is a commandment in the Quran and the women willingly dress modestly to better themselves in terms of religion.
In addition to the religious reasons, she noted that since people can’t see her appearance she couldn’t be judged only by what she looks like.
"When we go out we should be judged based on who we are, not what we look like," Sarwari said.
When speaking on the status of women in Islam, Sarwari said they are treated like princesses as children. Their fathers take care of finances and education and when the girls do eventually work they keep all their money. Even if they are being taken care of by the government, as the woman gets older she has the same rights a man.
Along with rights, women have responsibilities in society, Sarwari said.
Her third point, addressed the roles of women in society by stating that women have fought in battles, been doctors and teachers. Another misconception people have about Islam, she said, is that all marriages are arranged. Although in every religion marriages are arranged, Islam promotes women’s right to refuse marriage, Sarwari said. The Quran also says that husbands and wives should be equal.
Of all the points that were stressed by Sarwari, the point she emphasized the most was the way people treat one another. She told personal stories and accounts she heard of people being ignorant, and in some cases cruel, toward Muslims. She suggested the best way to combat situations like this is with knowledge of other religions, and the best way to deal with these situations is with kindness.
"The best of us are those who are best to each other," Sarwari said.
Adam King, a junior global and international studies and political science major commented on tolerance.
"[The] biggest thing we realize is culture is not religion, and we will open our eyes to a world of possibility and understanding," King said.
Sarwari, author of nine books, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, master’s in business administration and is currently in school to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic studies.
Sarwari encouraged the audience to visit her website to learn more, www.muslimwomanspeaker.com and to learn about other religions.
"Tolerance is truly by actions, not words," Sarwari said.