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Just Some of the Problems We Deal With...

Women are an essential part to the Bengali-Muslim community, but, they are often belittled and ignored. I, myself, am a Bengali Muslim and can account for the mistreatment that many women of my culture often face, and I believe that this should be a topic that is discussed within the community so we can resolve these issues and create a better and brighter future of Bengali-Muslim women.

First, one thing that bothers me pertains to meals. Whenever there is a dawat or large gathering of some sort, the men are always allowed to eat first and then the women. What often happens is that since men get to eat first, they always get to eat the best part of a dish, and sometimes even finish the dish, and so when the women eats, they only have leftovers and the all the dishes are cold because the men were taking their sweet time eating and talking without taking into account that the women are also hungry and need to eat. I always get frustrated by this, I know it is a small thing, but to me this displays a lot about our culture, how men are always considered to be on a higher position than women as seen by the fact that they always get to eat first. I know that Islam preaches for separation between men and women, but that does not mean that men have to eat first, maybe the women can be allowed to eat first, or maybe allow both to eat at the same time but have different places allotted for men and women, because as most Bengali people know that there is never space to eat around the dining table, so we just end up sitting on a random bed and eat.

Also, another thing is, as soon as girl turns 18, she immediately starts to get rishtas (marriage proposal). Whenever they go to a wedding or any sort of function or event. As a girl, you can’t have fun at these events because you know that there is some aunty talking about you and try to send a possible rishta, and sometimes, they’re super creepy and they take a picture of you. And they judge you for the rishta based on how you dress, how your makeup looks, whether you interact with other males at this event and also false, baseless rumor. And this is why I hate going to these large events and I try to avoid them most of the time. I know that arranged marriages are like the most halal way to get married, but the basis of which a rishta is sent is totally wrong and disgusting. A girl shouldn't be judged on the way she dresses and rumors, but rather her character, so if you want to send a rishta, maybe you should get to know the girl more and what type of person she is before you decide if she is right for your male relative. Also, why are guys not usually judged the same way girls are? Based on the rishtas that I hear about guys, it's always based on their career path, like “Mohammed is computer engineer, so he is a good boy.” Is he really? You don’t know his personality so how can you really judge what he is like? So, I believe that when it comes to discussing if someone is right for your child to marry, it should be based off of personality.

Additionally, when it comes to housework, it’s apparently the female’s job only. The men of the house can make a huge mess and leave it as and can expect that a female family member will take care of it. Or when they are hungry, they can just say that they are hungry and a female relative will make them something to eat. I have seen this with my cousin’s family, they are only one sister and two brothers, and whenever the brothers make a mess, they never have to clean up after themselves, they just leave it for their sister to clean, and she always get yelled at if she does not do a good job cleaning, not the brothers for making a mess in the first place. Also, whenever her brothers are hungry, she prepares them something to eat and they are never grateful, they always have something to criticize about the food. Whenever you ask her why doesn’t she speak out, she says she shouldn’t because she’s been taught that that is her job in the house, to only do household work. So, I believe that both males and females should be taught and partake in housework and chores, and they should be held accountable for themselves, not someone else and start to lead to equality within the household and that household work is not a women’s thing.

Also, in families where the mother is a housewife and the father works, which is a lot of Bengali-Muslim families, the housewife is always told that they are not the most important part of the household, rather it’s their husband because he makes the money for the family to survive. But, I totally disagree with this, and I believe both the mother and father are both equally important foundations for the family. Yes, the father makes the money so that he can buy necessities for the family and pay the bills, but the mother takes care of the house, does the cooking so the family has something to eat, and takes care of the kids so they end up being good, moral adults. Thus, the mother has an equal position in the family just as the father, they both are essential to the survival of the family. And whenever you ask a mother who has to do more for the family's survival, they always say that it's their husband, they always fail to recognize the hard work they do themselves to make sure that their family is functioning and always belittle themselves. So, we should show more appreciation to our mothers and show them how much hard work they do for the family and how important they are.

In addition, girls are often discouraged from continuing their education as this culture tries to enforce the idea that the female’s place is only the house, they shouldn’t be working. I often hear of how some girls do not go to college, rather after high school, they stay at home with their mothers and learn how to do the housework so that they can be the most perfect housewife so that they can get good rishtas. Many of these girls want to go to college and get a degree but because their parents don’t allow them to, so they let their dreams die just to make their parents happy. And the parents justify their reason for not allowing a girl go to college or have a successful career off of some false hadith (sayings and teachings from Prophet Muhammed PBUH) they made up, and they claim that Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said women should not work at all, rather, they should just stay at home. But, Islam never preached that women are not allowed to work, in fact, it states that women can work in a respectable field where it still upholds the values of Islam. And if a girl does go to college, they are often told to follow a career path which requires only a Associates or a Bachelor's degree cause it requires the least education, which is the dilemma that I faced when looking at a possible career path that I had an interest in, because the parents want their daughter to get married right when they turn 22, or they’ll be past their “expiration date” and will never get married after that. But for guys, their age for marriage never matters, and I don’t know why it doesn’t, and they are allowed to continue their education as much as they want. In my case, my mom told me that she wants me to get married right after I got my Bachelors and she wasn’t going to change her mind, but I want to get my Masters and I wasn’t going to change my mind either. So, I went to my dad and was able to persuade him that the career I want to pursue requires me to get my Masters, and I explained it to him that isn’t it his dreams to see his daughters succeed doing something they love rather than getting an easy job? And thus my dad told me that my main priority should be education and trying to get the job that I want. I am very fortunate to have a dad who is very open minded, but I know that many other parents are refuse to let their daughters further their education. The Bengali-Muslim community should be supporting women’s education as they will allow for progress on society, that there are these people who come from an immigrant background and allow for women to be happy doing something that they love.

So, all I am trying to get across is that there should be greater progress made within the Bengali-Muslim community concerning women. Many of us who live in a Western country and we see how much progress women of American society have created and so we strive to create progress for ourselves within our own community, but there are many people who just don’t want to change the sexist structure of our community. I hope to get a conversation started amongst our community and even other communities where the women face similar problems, cause I know that this is not only our problem, but a problem shared by many other communities. Thus, if we do start to talk about it, then Inshallah, we can create change.

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