I read this article on CNN.com today and I have to say that Eman al-Obeidy is one of my heroes. In a society as conservative as Libya, as well as a society where the dictator has no problems killing you - or rather, having you killed - for speaking out against anything, Eman al-Obeidy had the audacity to speak up. She had the audacity to say "I was raped." She had the audacity to speak out against Gadhafi's forces, who brutally attacked her. And not only to speak up, but to go into a hotel full of western journalists and yell it to the world. And then she had the courage to stand up to Gadhafi (I think his son, but I'm not 100% sure based on how it was written) and tell him when he had things wrong. To tell him that he was wrong when it was put out to the world that she had psychiatric issues. To say that he was wrong when it was put out to the world that it was her fault for showing herself. Eman al-Obeidy is my hero, because she stood up and spoke up, even though she knew that the cost to herself could possibly be her life.
However, the Muslim world, especially Muslim women, need to speak up with her. We need to speak up for our sisters around the world who don't have the voice to speak up. Eman al-Obeidy isn't the first to have been harmed by troops - either the troops of dictators or even the troops of Barrack Obama in Iraq and Afghanistan (Bagram or Abu Graib). And they won't be the last. But the vast majority don't have the strength, the self confidence or the support to stand up for themselves. They live in a society in which women are seen and not heard, or rather, in which women are neither seen or heard.
I wonder, sometimes, what I can do. What can I do to help the women in countries across the world have a voice? There is strength in numbers. Strength in voices. So many of the countries in the Middle East and southwestern Asia have perverted the rights of women under Islam. Women have the right to choose to wear hijab. No where does it say that a woman's body has to be completely covered. The Qur'an says that believing women should draw their cloaks around them (Qur'an 33:55 - “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.”) The hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa salaam) says: "Ayesha (rad.i-Allahu `anha) reported that Asma’ the daughter of Abu Bakr (rad.i-Allahu `anhu) came to the Messenger of Allah while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: 'O Asma’! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands." [Abu Dawud]
But the Qur'an also says in 2:256 "Let there be no compulsion in religion." There is much debate about hijab. There those that say it is mandatory, no ifs, ands or buts. There is those that say that women should even cover their faces, either in niqaab or burqa. Though the burqa is a mostly man, mostly Afghani thing that really is about the subjugation of women, not hijab.
My personal belief is that to be a Muslim, you don't have to wear hijab. While it's wonderful if you do, and you'll get extra rewards from Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) if you do, it's not a life or death issue. I also don't believe you have to abstain from pork, though my personal belief is to try your best to do so. I also don't believe that you must abstain from alcohol, though once again, my personal belief is that it is best to do so - though also I'd really rather alcohol was never created. I am a firm abolitionist. I would have done good during the dry era. But I believe that to be Muslim you must believe in the one true God, the God of the Christians, Jews and Muslims. A God with no equals. You must also believe that the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa salaam) is the final prophet who Allah sent the holy Qur'an to through the Angel Gabriel.
But I am a western, convert, woman who wasn't raised Muslim. Who has very liberal views. Who really doesn't care what other people do so long as it doesn't hurt themselves or others. Especially others. I care about equality for all. I don't care if your man or woman, straight or gay, black or white or yellow or brown or purple. I don't care if your Muslim or Christian or Jew or Atheist or what. I just don't. I don't have the time or energy to really care about that. I care about how people treat other. I teach my children to base their judgment of people on how they treat others. I teach them to not judge on skin colour, religion or anything else but how they treat others and themselves.
So as a liberal yet hijab wearing Muslim woman I love the fact that I have friends of all races, of all faiths, and all that I ask is that you don't try and convince me to believe what you believe, that you don't judge me because I choose to wear hijab. You don't judge me based on the insanity of extremists who pervert Islam for their own gain. You also don't judge me by the extremists on the other end of the spectrum - the ones that say that Islam doesn't say anything about hijab, that Islam is horrible, that Islam hurts people. Those people base Islam on their own experiences, often much more cultural than religious, and are also not the middle of the road Muslims. And those - those middle of the road Muslims - are the ones that need to stand up and speak out.
Just like Eman al-Obeidy did.