One of the most challenging issues to address in the classroom is the position of women in Islam. Even though you can sit around and have a class discussion about it, people's perceptions will still be dominated by accounts like this one
from Afghanistan. One useful tool to help counteract these impressions and create a more nuanced impression of the relationship of Muslim women with their religious communities is Zarqa Nawaz's documentary Me & the Mosque
. The director, a Canadian Muslim, travels Northern America examining the policies different mosques have toward women, with a particular eye on separation barriers between men's and women's areas of the mosque. They quite rightly bring out the overwhelming evidence that no such barriers existed in Muhammad's day, and in fact it's only in recent years that such barriers became common in the United States and Canada. More pedagogically valuable than this sort of information, however, are images of Muslim women, including hijabis
, being, well, normal people. It's only one documentary, but still an interesting flick to take a look at.
Thanks to UW's Islamic law expert Asifa Quraishi for loaning me the DVD!