Thursday, December 20, 2007

Moulding Our Own Facebooks

By now it seems there is no one who has not heard of Facebook. This ‘social utility’ as they call it has become so popular that people of all backgrounds are taking part, creating their profiles, adding lots and lots of friends, and joining various groups with others of similar interests. To me joining groups on Facebook has become a way to identify oneself; a way to tell people “Look, this is who I am. I’m a (Aquarius, woman, Muslim, etc, etc).” And it has become a safe way, or so we think, of voicing our opinions.

Since I've joined I've noticed many Muslim groups on Facebook. Just typing in a search for groups with the word Muslim in it comes up with over 500 groups. Type in 'Muslim women' and result is similar - over 500 groups. It seems many Muslim women are using Facebook to express themselves in many ways. There are groups for niqabis, for hijabis, for non-hijabis (shout out to my sistas), for Muslim feminists (another shout out), for Black Muslim women, for Turkish Muslim women, for Muslim women artists, sporty Muslim women, business Muslim women, for fighting violence against Muslim women, and on and on. There is even one for those who love bad Muslim women ('I Love Bad Muslim Girls') and one for hot Muslim women ('I Love Hot Muslim Girls !!!!' - exclamation marks theirs, not mine).

This is a medium in which Muslim women can control the way they are portrayed. They themselves can choose how they want the world to see them. Many are trying to debunk the stereotypes about Muslim women, stereotypes both outside and within the Muslim community.

There are numerous groups which defend the hijab and/or the niqab stating that it is their choice and that they are not oppressed. These groups create a safe space for women who wear the hijab and/or niqab (and others who support them) to share their experiences, connect with others like them, and mold their own image. They are taking control

The role of women in the Islamic World has and will continue to be percieved (sic) as a role where Muslim women are treated unfairly and are inferior to men. There are many reasons why many people around the world who may not be Muslim believe that women are inferior to men in Islam and are in many situations oppressed and unhappy with thier (sic) lives. This main objective of this group is to educate those who may not know much about the role of women in Islam. (from 'Islamic Women Are Respected, Not Oppressed')

Other groups are trying to defeat the stereotypes within the community and support each other in standing up to what seems often to be the status quo. As these groups may seem to be going against the grain sometimes, they too provide a means of support for the women who join, as well as a chance to educate others. They too are forming their own image and taking control.

I'm frankly tired of Hijab being the end all be all of discussions regarding what it means to be a Muslim woman. I'm also tired of people assuming that non Hijab wearing women are not religious. This group is for anyone who has felt discriminated against for not wearing Hijab. (from 'Just Because I don't Wear Hijab Doesn't Mean I'm Not Muslim')

Such groups seem to be working well to create unity among Muslim women. Personally, I have met some amazing Muslim women on Facebook who I never would have met otherwise. But the differences among Muslim women have also become very obvious as well. It seems as much as we have in common, we also have in difference. After all, there are over 500 groups for Muslim women.

Of course we could easily say that this is expected. After all, Muslim women are very diverse and a diversity of opinion is natural and to be expected. Being exposed to people of differing opinions has many advantages. So much can be learned and minds can be expanded when one listens to those with differing opinions than one's own. However, very often when it comes to Islam, differing opinions seem to lead to arguments, and sometimes irreconcilable disagreements. It may create a sense of dis-unity among Muslim women. And I suppose it would be naive to assume that all Muslim women feel a sisterhood with other Muslim women. But put Muslim women in an electronic forum where they feel safer, behind the 'veil' of the computer, voicing their opinions and you are bound to find disagreements, arguments, and perhaps even hostility. However, is it not just as important to know how and where people disagree with you as it is to have support in your opinion? By having others disagree, and by knowing how, why, and where they disagree, we have a lot to learn about our own positions. It forces us to educate ourselves on our own opinion.

Muslim women are as diverse a group as any. To deny that would be denying the obvious. Facebook has provided an opportunity to demonstrate this diversity. However, I really hope that the opportunity to expand our minds, learn about Muslim women from backgrounds, opinions, ideologies different than ours does not pass us by. Muslim women, in their own voices, are telling us about themselves. We should all listen to each other.