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“One of the largest misconceptions is Aisha Rahman and Dr. Azizah al-Hibri are members of Karamah. “T e vision of Islam we put forward is gender equity,

moderation, and justice. Karamah is oriented toward law,” says al-Hibri, 71. “Our legal training gives us a certain take on things.” Karamah also contributes to and serves as a resource for

scholarly publications on Islamic law and culture. With approximately 1.5 billion adherents, Islam is the

world’s second largest religion. It is also the fastest growing faith in the United States—and perhaps the most feared and least understood. Islam has commanded the attention of increasing

numbers of people in the United States in recent decades, particularly in the wake of the September 11 tragedies and the steadily expanding Muslim population. As a result, Karamah’s visibility has soared. Karamah offi cials work with a variety of organizations to help educate people about Islam and to correct many of the misconceptions about Islam and stereotypes about Muslims. “Some people have the idea that Muslim women are

oppressed by men in their lives or are not allowed to go out or work or have clothing scrutinized by their men, that they have no rights,” says Rahman. “T ere’s a lot of talk about whether Muslim women are forced to marry at an early age.”


that Muslim women are quiet, subservient, and not well-informed,” adds Raheemah Abdulameen, Karamah’s vice president and secretary and a lawyer in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department. “Some studies show that Muslim women tend to be highly educated within their faith and secularly. Even with something as small as the hijab there is the misconception that women who wear it are oppressed. But many women who wear the hijab feel it is very empowering. T ey believe it speaks to their relationship with God.” Perhaps even more important to

Karamah is educating Muslim women

about their legal rights and helping them distinguish between faith and culture. Karamah serves as a resource for the scholar- ship of Muslim scholars, leaders, and jurists, particularly on the subject of gender equity in Islam. It regularly conducts work- shops and programs on Islamic law and the rights of women under Islamic law throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. T e group also hosts programs that educate people of all faiths about Islam, particularly in the D.C. area. “We are lawyers interested in legal systems but we look

to our legacy to bring down some of these barriers that are people-made,” says Rahman, referring to gender barriers and other restrictions applied to women. Al-Hibri acknowledges that as is the case with many

ancient scriptures, there are varying interpretations. “Today in the Muslim world there are fi ve to ten schools

of thought,” she says. “Muslims are free to choose one.” She laments the methods used in some heavily Muslim countries where a group or committee or religious clerics make decisions about what’s best for the country. “T at’s a modern development.” D&B

Lekan Oguntoyinbo is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.



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