With the venerated, month-long Islamic holiday of Ramadan set to conclude Friday a group of local Muslim women are hoping to put some things right with the world.
Sarah Zaouzal of Sarasota is one of the leaders of the new Women's Committee at the Islamic Society of Sarasota & Bradenton, whose stated goal is, among others, to dispel myths about women in Islam.
Muslim women are not restricted in their activities by men, are allowed to speak their minds on any subject and can achieve greatness equal to that of a man, Zaouzal said.
"It can be frustrating that people think your husband forces you to cover your hair or that you are not allowed to leave your home," Zaouzal said, speaking of some of the Muslim cultural dress codes that ensure modesty, but are often misinterpreted in the West. "It is our duty as Muslim women to dispel the myths. Islam ensures women's equality. We hope people can understand that there is a big difference between culture and religion. Some people may do things in the name of Islam, that is really in the name of culture."
Ruta Jouniari, a member of the new group, said television is partially to blame for the misunderstandings.
"The only view many Westerners have is that of a black-clad, covered woman who seemingly has no rights," Jouniari said. "Our group is needed to procure the truth about women Muslims. They are educated, not submissive to anyone, except God, and that they are as human as anyone else."
Nazeela Rahman-Shaw, a member of the fledgling group, laughs when she hears stories of Westerners believing Muslim women are restricted.
"I was born into a Muslim family and was never made to feel that there was any position I couldn't attain," she said. "Even though I had a brother, my father taught me at an extremely early age how to manage the finances of the family business in which my mother was a partner. Reach for the stars is what they encouraged me to do." (MORE)