Talking today to a friend of mine who works at a clinic that performs abortions, she asked me a question that had me step back and consider some things. “What’s up with all the Muslim women getting abortions? I wish you could be here and see how many come in – you would be shocked.” The ages of the women vary – from teens to married women in their 40’s. I was a little surprised to hear her ask that question because I had never really considered it to be a big enough issue for someone who wasn’t Muslim to notice. But then in this city there are enough Muslims hanging around for the larger community to know at least some of the basic rules and regulations of behaviour. Although there are so many Muslim guys partying that many people are suprised to hear we are not supposed to be drinking alcohol.
I think the focus for many years has been solely on the men in the community – the drinking, the drugs, the sleeping around and the women have largely been ignored (aside from the ‘does she or doesn’t she wear hijab’ drama).
I know people like to focus on the fact that some girls are pressured into wearing hijab by bullying parents, and I don’t want to detract from that issue, but there are many, many young women out there who wear hijab because they choose to. That being said, it does not follow that they will always be content with this decision. Wearing hijab can be a daily struggle for many women, a good old fashioned love/hate relationship.
This ignoring of the women has I feel, much to do with our assumption that the wearing of the hijab promises that a) that woman is a ‘good girl’ and b) that woman is now beyond those temptations that befall men routinely. Women are not taken seriously as sexual beings, I have never heard anyone addressing women on how to maintain their chastity (although it has been repeated ad nauseum that keeping ourselves at home makes the world a happier place) . Men are always cautioned or advised on how to deal with school and workplace situations, yet the same is not done for women. Men are advised on how to control their sexual urges, the diffferent opinions on masturbation are presented, the merits of fasting are given, all from male points of views yet women are rarely, if ever included in these conversations. So while men’s sexuality has been acknowledged and adressed, their women have been left struggling to find their own way. This plays itself out negatively when we find women struggling with their personal demons – trying to remain practicing and faithful to their deen yet dealing with the temptations that are natural to both genders.
A friend of mine speculated that perhaps it was a lack of education that was landing these girls in the queue for abortions – I find it hard to believe but I know that there are still some girls out there that think you can’t get pregnant the first time, or a hot bath or something as silly will protect you. I think there is also the bigger psychological issue at play with these young women. To use contraception is to admit that you are sexually active, and that it is not ‘just this once’, but a regular occurence. This can be quite difficult to come to terms with. For a Muslim girl who is struggling with her iman, the same way the opposite gender does, the price to pay can be much higher. If they end up pregnant what else can they do but get an abortion? The thought of becoming an unwed mother is so impossible – it is not even an option to consider for most.
I have also known older, married women who have gotten abortions because they felt they had no other recourse. Either their husbands would not let them use contraception, or they simply could not fathom handling a sixth child, or they were getting divorced…everyone has reasons that I am not going to begin to judge.
The ironic thing is I have heard very few Muslim women champion a woman’s right to choice – quite the opppsite in fact. Disliking abortion from a moral/spiritual standpoint is of course natural for people of faith, no doubt. But focusing on this right to choice debate only serves to remove us from the actual issues at hand.
Not a happy topic but at the end of the day we are only responsible for ourselves really – we can only do our best to support each other and to help each other through this life. I can only pray that I am never tested in this way
On a happier note Sarah McLachlan is releasing a new CD and I am woohoo!! about it… Here is her song Ordinary Miracle. So release all your negative vibes for a moment and think of all those ordinary blessings that occur each day…countless, each one more wonderful than the last. And the best is that Allah is Most Merciful.