I want to thank everyone for their outpouring of support. I did not anticipate for my letter to be so widely received. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and I'm incredibly grateful for it.
Interestingly enough, few have questioned me, either for my beliefs, my authenticity and even if I can be considered a "Muslim." Which has got me thinking: Why is it that when an educated, independent, ambitious Muslim woman comes forward, she is not considered Muslim enough? Are our views of Muslims so beyond repair that we cannot reconcile with the fact that Muslims can have all of those qualities as well?
For those people who seem to be under this impression, I'd like to clear some things up. I'm sure I'm not the only one saying this, but I'll be glad to add my voice to the chorus.
Before I begin though, I want to stress that ISIS should not come up as an example when talking about Islam and Muslims. I am no religious scholar, but I can state confidently that the "faith" ISIS claims to represent cannot and should not be considered Islam. In fact, it is a direct contradiction of Islam. An assault. A violation. A hijacking.
Nowhere in Islam I have been taught says that it is okay to behead innocent human beings. As a matter of fact, my Islam says that if you kill even one human, it is as if you have killed all of humanity.
With that said, I'd like to address some concerns regarding myself.
Question 1: You don't cover your head, so how could you be Muslim?
Just because I choose to not cover my head does not make me any less Muslim. Modesty is not just covering one's head. It is also the way one thinks, speaks, and acts. To those ladies who choose to cover their heads, I respect you. To those ladies who choose to be modest in other forms, I also respect you.
Question 2: You're a feminist so you're not really Muslim?
Just because I'm a feminist does not mean I'm not a Muslim. Feminism and Islam are not mutually exclusive. Yes, women are generally oppressed in patriarchal, dominantly Islamic countries. However, we need to understand that it is a tradition of patriarchy that perpetuates this cycle of oppression.
I would argue that Islam has granted women rights. At the time Islam was born, women were considered property. Islam emancipated women. Whether people choose to live by this interpretation of God's creed is another discussion. Bottom line: the problem is not Islam. The few so called followers of Islam who are trying to poison the well are the real culprits here.
Question 3: Islam does not respect women, so how can you expect that Muslims will listen to what you have to say?
The Quran states that men and women have the same spirit and that one is not spiritually superior to the other. Although both genders have equal religious duties, in some instances women are even given more concessions due to our physiology.
According to scripture, women are highly esteemed in Islam. In fact, Aisha was a scholar to whom Muslim leaders would consult regarding scripture interpretation disputes. (If you are concerned as to what age Aisha was married, the following link has very solid points: Age of Aisha)
Question 4: You say you're an independent, working woman. You must not be Muslim then?
In addition to human rights, Islam grants women economic rights. Not only in the 7th century did Islam allow women to own their own property, but they were also given the right to keep any money they made while married. It was not until the 19th century that married women in England were allowed to own their own property!
Furthermore, nowhere in the Quran does it say that women are not allowed to get an education or work outside the home. In fact, Khadijah, the prophet's first wife and the first person to convert to Islam, was a businesswoman for whom the Prophet himself worked for!
Question 5: Your views are too liberal and open-minded, you must not be a real Muslim? In fact, you must not be real at all!
No, I'm not a figment of liberal imagination, I actually exist. And these are my real beliefs.
Being in tune with my humanity does not make me any less Muslim. In reality, it makes me a good Muslim. That is what Prophet Muhammad wanted for us. That is what God wants for us. To be kind to one another.
So you see, when I say I'm an educated, independent and ambitious Muslim-American woman, I mean it. As a child of war, I learned at a very young age what it means to be a female in this world. After 9/11, I also learned what it means to be a Muslim-American in this world. But before learning any of that, my father taught me to be ambitious and go after my dreams like any man would feel entitled to. My mother taught me to be strong and independent like any 21st century young lady would want to be. And my grandparents taught me to embrace my faith while still embodying all of those qualities.