The Muslim Student Association kicked off Islam Awareness Week in March with a lecture by Tamara Sonn, the College’s Kenan Professor of Humanities, Religious Studies. Titled “Women in Islam: Tradition and Change,” the lecture tackled many misconceptions about the treatment of women in the Islamic faith.
Sonn introduced her topic with a complaint. “Everyone is always coming up to me and saying, ‘I don’t really know much about Islam, but I sure don’t like how they treat their women,'” she said. “People always want to hear about ‘women in Islam,’ so I usually turn it around and say, OK, but first, you tell me about ‘women in Christianity.'”
Sonn explained that “there are very few things you can say about all Muslim women. How can you characterize one half of one fifth of the world’s population?” she asked.
But then, diving into the true subject of her talk, she explained that “the Qur’an has a great deal to say about women-and it has a great deal to say that is positive about women.” Sonn spent the remainder of her lecture explaining the truly progressive nature of the Qur’an in the context of the highly patriarchal society within which it developed.