Thursday, September 17, 2009

Muslim Women

As a Middle East Studies major in college, I studied the major theological themes of Islam and the history of Islam (and Mohammad). I started attending the weekly campus meetings of the Sisters United Muslim Association (SUMA), originally as extra credit for my Women in Islam class.

As a Christian, I was moved by the devotion of my Muslim friends. They thought of Allah in all they did, and had the manners and virtues any Christian parents could hope to instill in their own daughters. They were paragons of modesty. One girl in SUMA was "Islamically married" to her future husband. She told me this was a time for the two of them to become closer, without chaperon, and for him to see her hair out from a veil. These girls were devout, but not extremists. They were faithful in keeping their daily prayers and they gave Allah thanks for their blessings.

Even the meetings themselves reminded me of any Christian women's group I'd ever heard of. We sat in a large circle, and listened as a woman read from the Koran and gave a small hominy or lesson, usually reflecting on the life of one of Mohammad's wives or daughters. After the lesson, we'd have cookies and punch, and maybe do arts and crafts. It was fairly lame, really. My Muslima friends were just as far from being terrorists as I was.

Yet, as a Christian, I "knew" their beliefs were wrong. Mohammad was so obviously suffering from temporal lobe seizures or some other brain affliction, or else he was a liar. It made me start to wonder if I had any better justification for my own beliefs than these women had for theirs. This optional extra credit assignment - get to know a few Muslim women - was one of the major contributing factors to my eventual atheism. I couldn't come up with any way that Christianity was better or more likely to be true than Islam, yet Islam seemed (frankly) ridiculous and incredible to me. So what legs did my Christian faith have to stand on?