Differently colored hijabs, the headscarves Muslim women are
required to wear, shrouded the hair of four unique women Wednesday
night on campus.
Even though these women all had different skin colors and
nationalities, they were bonded by the shared religion of Islam.
The four united to present, “A Look Into the Lives of Muslim Women”
in the Lory Student Center.
The presentation’s goal was to educate people about way of life
for females in the Islam religion and dispel the common
misconception that Islam oppresses women.
Huma Babak, who graduated from CSU in 2003 with a degree in
computer science, said she was on the panel because she wanted to
remove misconceptions about Islam, and she expressed concern at the
fact that Islam is thought to oppress women.
“Islam gives women many rights. It liberated women, it was the
first religion to give women a lot of freedom,” she said.
One of the main points that the presenters wanted to make clear
was that the negative perceptions of the religion stem from Muslim
culture and not the Islamic faith.
“The negativity does come from the culture,” said Eman Fallah,
who grew up in Fort Collins but has Libyan parents. “We believe
Islam is a perfect religion and has no faults.”
The first in-depth topic was the Islamic dress code for women.
Alicia Chatila, an American who converted to Islam and a business
administration and management junior, explained the purpose of
women wearing a hijab, which is required by the Islamic holy book
the Quran. The headscarf can cover either the hair, all of the face
except the eyes or the entire face including the eyes, depending on
the specific culture.
Chatila said that the chief reason for the hijab is to
differentiate Muslim women from others.
“They wear the hijab to show that they are a pious woman and a
believer. It holds large symbolism,” Chatila said.
Babak covered the topic of Muslim marriages, which are arranged
by the female’s parents. She said it is not true that the parents
of the girl can give her to a man without her consent. According to
the Quran, if the girl does not like the marriage, it will be
Babak also said that in Islamic culture, living together or even
dating before the wedding is prohibited.
“Courtship as it exists in the West does not exist (in Islam).
There is no physical contact before marriage,” she said. “Romance
and love do not equal an everlasting bond.”
Babak backed up her claim with statistics stating that arranged
marriages are far more successful than the typical Western
“romantic” union; the divorce rate in Islam is less than 2 percent,
while more than half of American marriages end in divorce, she
Motherhood in Islamic culture was discussed by Fallah, who said
women are highly valued because they are able to give birth. She
explained that while they are not confined solely to that
occupation and are permitted to have a career or study at a
university, women are not allowed to abstain from having
According to Islamic faith, pain expiates sins and the agony of
childbirth is considered a “good deed” in the eyes of God.
“Muslims aim to please God by performing good deeds. Everything
a mother does for her family can be an act of worship,” Fallah
The women wrapped up the event with a question-and-answer
session, which steered quickly back to the negative perceptions
non-Muslims have about the Islamic religion. Responding to an
audience member question, the women said many governments keep
people ignorant by not permitting them to read the Quran and making
harsh or unnecessary laws in the name of Islam.
“Governments use religion against the people,” Chatila said.
“They twist it to work for them.
The panel members also said that once a woman gains access to
the Quran, she will understand the rights God provides her, and she
will have the power to free herself from oppression caused by
other’s ignorance of the religion. These God-given rights include
the right to inheritance, the right to vote, the right to own
property, the right to a divorce and the right to marry whomever
“(The presentation) was very good and very clear,” said Claudia
Arocena, a Fort Collins resident whose husband attends CSU. “I had
no idea before coming here about Muslim culture or Muslim religion.
Everything they said was new to me.”
Heather Wilson, a senior studying English, agreed that the event
was informative and enjoyed the perspective the women shed on
“I thought it was very well organized and they did a good job
presenting a more positive side of Muslim women and their lives,”