Gender and Islam

Apr 102011
Authors: Rachel Childs

According to Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, the lives of women in Afghanistan are much different than Americans tend to think.

Ahmed-Ghosh, a professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University, teaches a class that focuses on Islamic women’s lives in a historical and globalized context, and on Friday, she shared some of her knowledge with CSU students in the Lory Student Center’s Grey Rock room.

“Still things are not working. Things have gotten worse,” Ahmed-Ghosh said.

The Indian-born scholar has traveled to Afghanistan for research on women since 2003 and has seen both wealthy and impoverished women in the Middle East.

She has seen drug lords take over areas and seen women struggle with a lack of civil institutions to benefit their lives and the people in the area’s lives in general.

“In the beginning when I went in 2003 they were very grateful to the Americans. Now when I go back in 2010 they hate the Americans because their lives haven’t changed,” she said.

But, meanwhile, in cities like Kabul –– home of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs –– she said a significant number of women are educated.

“We deliberately show the poverty and then people think that is the whole … Then we never show images of modern women or women who are professionals,” she said.

Ahmed-Gosh said the typical Western view of a Muslim woman pictures her covered head to toe in a burqa, uneducated and unable to leave her husband. The role of the U.S. in perpetuating negative stereotypes plays into the tendency to view those in war as uncivilized and abusive, according to Ahmed-Gosh.

She begins her SDSU class with a set of misconceptions written on her whiteboard and systematically breaks them down to show her students that what they have seen and heard has another side.

She also focuses on the feminist goal of equality. Sexualization exists in both Islamic culture and U.S. culture, according to Ahmed-Gosh, whether it is a burqa or a bikini.

“Here we let them expose themselves, there we cover them but you’re still looking at a woman as a sexual being,” she said.

Ahmed-Gosh spoke at CSU as part of the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research’s Intersectionality Series to get a global perspective on women’s issues.

“It’s a topic that is interesting,” said communication studies major Joe Peterson, who came to the session after covering the topic in his history class. He said he enjoyed learning about the issue from a global perspective.

“It’s something that people don’t normally see,” said CWSGRB chair Eulanda Sanders.

Staff writer Rachel Childs can be reached at

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