Recently, there have been many social media posts and news articles relating to Saudi Arabia and its backwards treatment of women. I have been reading many posts about how women in Saudi Arabia are now fighting for their right to drive a vehicle.
I have known about this backwards and illogical law for a while now. These laws and regulations that I hear about strike me in a very deep way, mainly because of my roots and upbringing. I was born Muslim, and raised in a family that believes in the religion. My parents are what you can call modern Muslims, not extreme like the Muslims you may hear about often in mainstream news.
I remember as a teenager hearing about these crazy laws. I realized that there was a huge misconception when it came to Muslims and Islam in general after participating in a project that our Moral Education teacher in 9th grade assigned to our class. Each student was assigned a world religion and had to create a 1 hour oral presentation based on their research of that religion. It was a good way to expose the students to the different belief systems around the globe.
Unfortunately, the student that was assigned Islam found his information mostly from biased news articles and Islamaphobic references. I remember him basically explaining that Islam was a religion where the women were beaten by their husbands regularly, where women were not respected and where God was a punisher who encouraged violence and hate against everyone that was not of the Islamic faith. I sat there in awe, shocked by the misinformation being spewed from this 9th graders mouth. What bugged me even more was the fact that the teacher sat there saying nothing, and once the presentation was done, there was a round of applause, and the teacher joined in! When it was time for questions, my hand shot up, and that was it, for the first time in my young life, I stood up for a religion that I was not truly following and that I was not passionate about, only because I knew the truth and felt an urge to fix the potential damage from the misinformation provided.
I asked the student where his references were from and he answered that they were mostly from news articles about incidences in Saudi Arabia and some from Pakistan. I then asked if he realized that Muslims lived all over the globe, that there were Muslims in China, Indonesia, and even here, in North America. He of course, at the risk of looking like he didn’t do his research, answered that he was well aware. I then explained to him and to the classroom, while looking at the teacher, that I was born and raised in the Islamic religion, and that I whole heartedly disagreed with his research. I explained that Islam was a religion where respecting a woman was as important as worshipping Allah. I explained that the disrespect and the mistreatment of women in Islam was not rooted in the religion but actually rooted in the cultures that adopted Islam as their belief systems. I was able to get the classroom to open their minds and to see that the presentation had been based on biased information. The teacher applauded my efforts at straightening things out, and decided that I should create an additional presentation based on Islam for extra marks. I learned two things that day, 1. Speaking your truth is extremely important and 2. Having a big mouth lands you extra work....
I know where my passion stems from, and it has nothing to do with a specific belief system or a religion. My passion is for truth, peace, justice and acceptance. My passion is to create ties between people and destroy any walls that are built by misinformation and fear. My passion is to spread truth, to open minds and to broaden my own horizons and others. My passion is to be just, to be truthful, to be a voice that speaks up when fear is being spread. My passion is to defend myself and others when necessary. I will always find ways to spread truth, I will always find ways to spread acceptance and to build bridges. I have stood up for every faith, from Hinduism, to Islam to Christianity, whenever I hear fear and misinformation being spread, regardless of what faith or culture is aimed at, I voice the truth that I have learned by knowing people from these faiths and cultures, and in turn, some minds become more open.
That was a 9th grade classroom of about 20 students. My voice was enough to fight the misinformation. Now, we have misinformation spreading like wildfire across the world through mainstream media and social networking. My wife is passionate about women’s rights and the war for gender equality, and so am I. She posted some news about the fight in Saudi Arabia for women’s driving rights, I know that my wife is open minded and that she is not ignorant to think that these backwards laws in Saudi Arabia are a reflection of Islam and the Muslim people, but it made me think, and brought back memories from that 9th grade classroom. I wondered, if people all over the globe were sitting there thinking that these retarded laws were founded by Islam. I wondered if the women around the world were relating the Saudi Arabian Wahhabi terrorists to the religion itself, and I could not help but come to the conclusion that there was not enough information out there to argue that these laws and that the Wahhabi extremists were not the norm for Islam. It occurred to me, again, that there is so much misinformation being spread and that I need to voice the truth.
The truth is this:
Saudi Arabia has been hijacked by a group of extremists called the Wahhabi's. The Wahhabi's basically took over Mecca (Islams Holiest city) and created an ultra conservative and perverse version of the Islam that the prophet Mohammed originally brought forth. Many of these perversions are based on an extreme patriarchal social system that treats women like lower life forms and has no respect for basic human rights. People must understand that the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia is not in any way shape or form reflective or representing the beliefs of Islam. Saudi Arabia is one of those countries that need a major revolt, a major shift in power. Saudi Arabia has only been safe because of its ties with the west and relationships with gigantic corporations. If it wasn't for those ties and relationships, Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabi's would have been chased into the desert and left to die long ago....for more information on the subject, there is a great book called 'The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremist' by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl.
So, the next time you see news or posts about how badly women are treated over in Saudi Arabia, please, do not immediately think “ugh, Muslims are all crazy bastards, disgusting people who do not know how to treat women or human life in general”, think instead “those damn Wahhabi's and their Saudi system, I hope and pray that the people will be able to finally fight them out of power, I hope that the west will finally stop supporting them and their system, power to the PEOPLE in Saudi Arabia”. Power to the people...remember, a person is not defined by what they wear or by what religion they follow, you cannot define a human being by labeling them...remember that we still have a long long way to go before we get to where we need to be...it starts with spreading truth, and being open minded..it starts with being selective with what you choose to believe. Do not believe everything you read or hear as truth, do your own research...look deeper than what you see on the surface...do not be so easily swayed and manipulated into building walls and creating boundaries based in fear and hate...do not be so easily manipulated into hating your fellow men and women....use your mind and your heart, together...