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Culture, Religion and Women

The austerity of human beings to exploit women and act in the name of religion to accomplish their selfish purposes is the real cause of every major destruction throughout history. The mainstream media comes up with issues and events that are a direct attack on some religious beliefs when they are in reality problems of culture, traditions, politics, superstitions or sometimes illiteracy and lack of knowledge.

Women are traumatized in more obvious ways than by tanks in the streets. The oppression starts innocuously. It mostly begins within families, with girls being locked up in their rooms. This everyday violence is the product of a culture that bestows power to men. It is evident in the unbalanced sex ratios at birth. Violence is buried in the training of women in some deadly habits that encourage human rights violations but are considered the essence of good womanhood. For many women, remaining true to a particular custom often means excruciating pain, mutilation, and even death. Yet people somehow still manage to blame religions for their egotistical demands.

Various misunderstandings about women’s rights and their status in religions have been spread, like the restriction on stepping out of the house, violation of their right to seek education, forced marriages, strict dress codes and the list could go on. It is factually the case that religious teachings stress the value of peace and prosperity for all human beings, emphasizing that the opportunity to seek all forms of knowledge is a human right and responsibility of all individuals.

The current suppression of women is shaped by culture and history. It has no basis in the Quran, the Bible, or any other holy scripture.

Hinduism, the only major religion that worships women directly, inconsistently and specifically.
Fact: In the Hindu tradition, the earliest image of God in the archeological evidence, say in the Mohenjo-Daro excavations on the idea of a spirit or Godhead is a female.
Atharva 14.1.6
Parents should gift their daughter intellectuality and power of knowledge when she leaves for her husband’s home. They should give her a dowry of knowledge.

Islam, the first actual religious scripture that granted rights to women was the Quran. Right to vote, inheritance, marriage and divorce to name a few.
Fact: Prophet Muhammad was easily the most radical and empowering in his treatment of women. Arguably he was history’s first feminist.
Verse 71, Surah At- Tawbah, The Quran
The Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”

Buddhism, while accepting the biological and physical differences between the two sexes, does consider men and women to be equally useful to the society.
Fact: More than two-and-a-half millennia ago, Mahapajapati Gotami, the Buddha’s Aunt, set a precedent for first women’s rights march.
The Buddha unhesitatingly accepted that women are capable of realizing the truth, just as men are. This is why he permitted the admission of women into the Order.

Christianity, in the creation account of Genesis 1, God’s first word on the subject of men and women is that they were equally created in the image of God (v. 27).
Fact: In the Epistles, the two principles of equality and submission for women exist side by side. Galatians 3:28 points to equality, indicating that the way of salvation is the same for both men and women and that they are members of equal standing in the body of Christ.
Galatians 3:28, The Bible.
There is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

credits: Patheos

Often seen as a barrier to gender parity, religion is certainly misinterpreted by many, leading to staunch fanaticism and radicalization of beliefs. As students, when we read the book of God, we don’t just study something that is an intellectual exercise, we are humbly studying the word of God. Anything that it teaches us is the manifestation of God’s love, care, and mercy. At the end of the day, it is the human effort of how well you want to understand. The power of culture in creating violence has been underestimated. To reclaim humanity we need to have a conversation about how individuals are entitled only for their deeds and how unfair it is to be prejudiced against any community or religion for something that it doesn’t even preach.

Malaika Mumtaz Khan is a student pursuing English Honors from Jamia Millia Islamia.

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