Wedding Song and the Marriage of Culture

by

Before I became involved in the Morocco program, the subject of women in Islamic culture held little importance in my life. Personally, what affect did it have on me with my ridiculous “first world problems” and the freedom that I inherited from birth? To be honest, I was merely looking forward to the travel experience and subsequent riding of camels in the Moroccan desert. Yet somehow, my process of thinking has changed immensely over this quarter with Dr. Segall alone, not to mention how I will continue to change with our journey into the midst of Islamic culture.

From what I DID know about the gender issues within Islamic culture, I was being fed by American press and sources which I now know are severely biased and ill-informed. The women that I believed Islam consisted of were oppressed and misused. The media allowed us to become misled in viewing Islamic women as powerless and victimized in both our culture and in their own. Time magazine’s gruesome portrayal of the young girl with a hole in her face, causes the misperception that all women within the Islamic community are mistreated, thus becoming a catalyst to false generalization. On the other hand, WE as Americans are highlighted as saviors of the weak, both over exalting our role and again ignoring the fact that women in Islam are not what we perceive them to be.

Women within Islam are strong, proud, devout, and NOT helpless.

This cultural imagination that we have been fed by false accounts has led us to believe in the disembodied image of a veiled woman. The true image is that of a women who can raise a family, vend spices and scarves in open market places, and be held as a powerful image of grace and community power.

In the film The Wedding Song, the typical role of a young Islamic female is challenged in all aspects of life. While the West has portrayed the submissive figure of a veiled woman in Islam, the stereotype is averted in that it is Nour, the Muslim girl, who sneaks out to see her fiancé while her Jewish friend, Myriam, lies in her bed hiding from impending oppression. The film tracks the relationship of the two young girls, the Muslim living in freedom while the Western girl is forced to marry a stranger and submit to the German military. Furthermore, in a scene in the women’s bath house, the director shatters the stereotype of powerless Islamic women when the Germans invade the privacy of the baths, and collect all the women without scarves. In an act of love for her Jewish sister, Nour stands up for her friend, throwing a scarf to her and demanding power over the Western force; a power which reflects the true identity of Islamic women.

Historically, oppression of Islamic culture has occurred for centuries, and with the way the West portrays Islamic women, the chance of this changing seems dim. Yet, there has always been a powerful representative women in the culture like Nour, who challenge what Western ideas have developed in regards to Muslim women. Khadija, the wife and mentor to the founder of Islam and the legendary Scheherazade, a woman who ends political unrest in Islamic stories stand as examples of women who lend power to the female identity in Islam. What we don’t see in the Western world about women in Islam is that not all wear their veils not because they are forced to, but instead because it represents a powerful and political symbol against the backlash of violence against their culture. They embrace the power that they possess as women and differentiate themselves from the masses, choosing to wear a veil even when Western cultures look down upon it.

See, this is where my classmates and I come in again. Before studying women in Islam, I thought that there was nothing I could ever do to change the fact that the Muslim stereotype existed. But now I know that this is not true. Not only will this Study Abroad opportunity in an Islamic culture be an adventure and a learning experience, but it will also be an opportunity to challenge the views that we have been fed by the media in the Western world. Then with this knowledge, we will be prepared to challenge the false perceptions and speak for what we have witnessed first hand. Though oppression exists in the world, perhaps falsifying the exaggerated ideas of it in Islam will help us understand how we are affected by it and a marriage will occur between Islam and the West, just as in The Wedding Song.

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