Male dominant culture is a phrase that is sometimes connected to the religion of Islam, but there is a big difference between cultural factors and Islamic rules and regulations. Women are a vulnerable group in societies even though they are the core of the family. Reflective of the strong and extended family structure that is typical in Muslim families, women are sometimes raised in the wrong way to blindly follow and obey the rules of the family and in particular to follow men and be totally dependent upon them even on personal issues and matters that are not governed by Islamic regulations.
What is worse is when a woman is raised in such a way that she actually believes that her male guardian knows what is better for her than she does herself and she agrees that he should make decisions for her on matters that affect her life.
Sometimes our educational curriculum shapes this way of thinking by persuading women that they are weak and that the way to be a good Muslim is for a woman to leave her choices to her male guardian whether or not the man is younger and less educated than she is or more mature and wiser.
Women have been told that this is part of their obedience to God and that they must satisfy their male guardians and follow and obey them whether they are right or wrong, and that if they do so, they will be rewarded in heaven.
Yet, the question remains: Is this true in our religion or have we been misled and have we lost our way and become unable to know the difference between respect and weakness and culture or tradition and true Islam.
When I wrote in Twitter that Shariah laws in Islam and the Ministry of Health rules and regulations in Saudi Arabia guarantee women the right to give their own consent for their medical treatment, I found women, not men, making statements, such as: “My husband or my father knows better than I do and I have to be a good Muslim and leave the decision and the consent issue to them and not disobey them”.
I feel more and more convinced that this is the right time to empower women in the Kingdom. Women need to know that they have their rights and they should understand that it is not in violation of Islamic rules nor is it disrespect if they make decisions on their own and exercise their right of choice. It is time to empower girls and raise them on the real values of Islam and not leave control to those who dominate them under the name of Islam and send the wrong message about the way women are meant to be treated and hide the truth about how women are honored in our beautiful religion.
I am only too aware that it is not an easy task, but we must all work to empower the future generation. If you are a mother, a teacher or a doctor or you have employees, you could play a major role in spreading the beauty of moderate Islam and the true status of women in Islam and the correct accurate meaning of guardianship. It may not bring about change tomorrow, but once we start, the day after tomorrow is definitely going to be different.
* The author is the founder, CEO and Board Member of the Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi Center of Excellence in Breast Cancer.
This article was published in the Saudi Gazette on Oct. 27, 2012.