By Nadeya Hussain – KLTV Contributor
With the Asian community growing, and society developing, Islamic culture has caught the attention of the media now more than ever.
With typical assumptions of Islamic women being ‘held back by stigma and oppression’, society has created a mix of opinions and ideas on what life is like for women in this community.
Within Kirklees, different ethnic minority groups have rapidly grown, with many community support groups popping up to support them in the wider area.
As a Muslim woman myself, raised in a Batley, a town and community where the majority of the neighbourhood was a similar ethnic group to me, I saw firsthand that many would assume that we faced issues around social stigma and oppression.
Much has been made in the media about these issues. The media is one of the most powerful platforms where you freely see public opinion and sentiment.
In my opinion, the media has portrayed ethnic groups such as Islam in a way where they come across as ‘uncultured’ within the broader British community. This represents a false view of Muslim women.
They have presented those who have problems such as language barriers as less intellectual and incapable of progress compared to other ethnic groups. Moreover, the media also associates Muslim women as being oppressed and passive.
The most prominent stigma that has been created is the idea that Muslim women cannot work, that they must remain at home and ‘fulfil her duties as a woman’.
However, as the new generation has grown and evolved, the community has slowly grown to become more accepting of women doing more in society and achieving their goals.
When looking at the 2011 Census for the highest level of educational qualification in Kirklees, 24.7% of the white minority had achieved level 4 qualifications and above, whilst Asian or Asian British had 19%. This shows that actually, both have a close percentage, so are they really that behind?
I had a discussion with one local woman from Batley. While she wished to remain anonymous, she expressed how she grew up in a culture in India, where she was prepared to become a housewife. She eventually moved here and got married with her roles being to look after the house and her family.
However, she noticed the community around her growing: “After a few years of living here and noticing other women do well for themself” she said, “I decided to put myself out there and now I work as a carer and I love my job I push my kids every day to become better.”
The overall negative portrayal of Muslim women in the media and the lack of positive role models in my opinion is what keeps them down in society.
Many don’t see or notice the progressive views on how far the community has grown. With historically present attitudes and practices in society, it meant women were treated differently because of their gender.
So, how are we overcoming this? With the rise of Muslim women building communities and societies, they are empowering and pushing women like themselves forward to create this progress.
They are challenging these stereotypical representations of ‘weak’ and ‘passive’ and are fighting for progress.
One such group is the Indian Muslim Welfare Society (IMWS). They are one of the largest charities in the North West and were started by a South Asian community across Batley and Dewsbury, which aims to help encourage, engage, and empower local women.
They also promote positive images of Muslims in the British Society.
Another group is WomenCentre, a mental health and wellbeing service based across Kirklees and Calderdale. They aim to increase training and employment opportunities and see improvements to economic conditions, as well as raising self-self-confidence, self-esteem, and social interaction skills in all women.
These societies that are continuing to grow all over Kirklees show the great progress that has been made over the last few years.
With more young girls completing their education and going into thriving job industries and building a successful career for themselves, the stigma is slowly disappearing.
Instead of communities holding them back, we have organisations developing them and pushing them forward.