I am a writer who is attempting a novel to promote understanding/acceptance of Islam in American society. If you have the time (especially if you are a Muslim woman), I would like to ask a few questions to further my own understanding.
For me, as a non-religious person and a feminist, this is a difficult topic to master. I have read books about the prophet Muhammad and books written by American Muslim women in defense of Islam, and I have found that there are incredible misconceptions about Islam in my society. I have discovered how respectable Islam truly is, how when it was created, it was very progressive for its time, particularly with the rights it endowed to Arabic women at the time. I am not planning on converting to Islam (or any religion for that matter), but I believe it is important to respect other people's values and accept facets of other cultures, as long as they are just. That is the point of my novel.
That said, I also have read about the mistreatment of Muslim women and male domination permitted by the Qur'an. I know it is argued that this is a product of culture, not religion (and I have observed similar patterns with Christianity). The overall message of Islam is beautiful; when we read into it, however, that is where debate usually starts to stir up. This leads me to my questions. Please note that these are not meant to offend or challenge; they are merely common questions that permeate the minds of many Westerners, and in order for me to write about Islam fairly, I must understand the answers to these questions.
1) Do women have a choice to wear the hijab, and if they choose against it, are they ostracized?
2) Are men allowed to beat their wives? I understand that Muhammad did not beat his wives and he encouraged fellow men not to as well, but has it become a common practice?
3) Are women allowed to leave the house without a chaparone? Are they allowed to speak without permission? Are they allowed to be in a room with another person without their husband present? Can a woman visit the doctor without her husband present? Is a man allowed to be alone in a room with another woman without his wife present? What are the reasons for your answers?
4) Are women's opinions considered valuable?
5) What, according to you personally, are a woman's duties in Islamic society? Is it respected for a wife to have a career? I have read about female leaders who have been elected in Islamic societies and Muslim women who have been educated as doctors and lawyers, so I am assuming the answer is yes, but I want to know your thoughts on this.
6) Are women considered equal to men?
7) What are the measures men must take to practice modesty?
Is a man expected to be faithful to his wife, just as women must be faithful to her husband?
9) How often is a Muslim expected to go to the mosque to pray?
Thank you for your help!