Event Clears Up Misconceptions About Women in Islam

Photo by Nicole Williams

A talk that focused on the globalization of the Islamic faith and its impact on gender roles and the overall lifestyle of West Africa was held this past Monday. Ramapo’s own Dr. Erin Augis, associate professor of sociology, held the talk, entitled “Women, Submission and the Politics of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa." The talk, which was hosted by the Culture Club, was designed to bring light to the often misunderstood practices of sub-Saharan Africa.

Augis is a sociology scholar specializing in West Africa and religion. Throughout her presentation, she used pictures of women she has encountered during her fieldwork in the Sahel to tell the narrative of the misapprehended society that is sub-Saharan Africa. The discussion centered on women’s involvement in the Islamic faith, which can be seen as one-dimensional to those who do not understand its full capacity. Those in the faith do not only look to their religion for spiritual guidance, but for lifestyle guidelines, as well.

Western media channels often only show one section of the intricate religion, but Augis used her firsthand experiences to break all preconceived notions. Augis is an African society enthusiast who feels that it is extremely important for Western teachings to explain how pluralistic Islam is, even in its most conservative forms. Through understanding, according to Augis, we learn to embrace the differences of other societies and end the stereotypes that the news and media channels often influence.

The world of sub-Saharan Africa and the United States are very different, but just as women are fighting to be held to the same standard as men in the U.S., there is also a women’s revolution in West Africa. The context of the society differs, but gender inequality is something American women can relate to. Finding these subtle similarities band the two nations together.

In American society, religion can be seen as one dimensional, but communities in sub-Saharan Africa incorporate their religion into their daily lives. 

Members of the Ramapo community were joined by people of different colleges at the event. William Patterson senior Shane Mafy heard about the presentation through a friend at Ramapo and decided to check it out.

“It’s really interesting to see life in other places and compare it to home,” he said. “There are differences between the two societies but there are also fundamental similarities. There’s so much to take in about the world we live in; I felt that this was a good start.”