By Megan Spencer |Staff Writer|
The Santos Manuel Student Union’s (SMSU) Women’s Resource Center presented the “Muslim and Arab Women” event demonstrated by professor of Communication, Ahlam Muhtaseb on Tues. Feb. 19 in the SMSU Theater.
She discussed the common misconceptions about all Arab and Muslim women being the same.
She explained that Muslim is a religion and Arab is a race.
Muhtaseb began her presentation by explaining how to differentiate between Arab and Muslim women.
“They share mutual or similar culture but they are not the same,” said Muhtaseb. “A big misconception about Arabs is that their religious affiliation is Muslim; that it not always true … roughly 85 percent are Muslim, 15 percent are Christian and less than 1 percent are Jewish.”
There are an estimated 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and the organization of Islam countries has 55 member states.
“Muslim and Arab women are a very diverse group culturally, religiously and politically,” said Muhtaseb.
To be honest, this was definitely a learning experience for me. Going into this presentation I had very little knowledge about these cultures and I felt that Professor Muhtaseb did an amazing job at explaining the differences.
What she wanted students to see is even in our day and age, people still generalize cultures often without ever visiting or meeting people from that culture.
She gave an example of when she went to dinner with her husband for Valentine’s day.
They went to a restaurant called Samovar Tea Lounge in San Fransisco and on the front menu it reads, “dismount your camel, unroll your rug, start the fire and chill out beneath the starry desert night; your candle-clasping harem will soon follow…”
“Even San Fransisco is still set in the stereotypical way, and by having that on the menu it lets others believe that it is okay to do so as well,” said Muhtaseb.
One large reason she feels the need to educate students on this topic is so we can break down these fallacies and look to a more open minded future.
Muhtaseb also gave insight on the Hijab and student Erhan Arat gave his view about it afterwords.
“A hijab is a veil that Muslim women wear to conceal the beauty of a women so [men] don’t focus on their appearance but instead highlight their other attributes, as well as promoting a sense of modesty,” said Arat.
Students felt that this event and future events are important to attend because, “It educates women about other cultures and breaks down the stereotypes related to them,” said Ashraf Dauodi.
Muslim and Arab women were once, and in many ways are still seen in Western societies as highly sexualized, oppressed and/or silenced.
“People assume they understand other cultures and it is a justification to degrade women instead of learning about them, “ said Muhtaseb.
The Muslim and Arab Women event gave the opportunity to open students minds to other cultures and ways of living.