CAIRO - Challenging stereotypes connected to women in Islam, a British university has developed a new course to cover topics related to Muslim women to change wrong perceptions of Islam in the world media, the Guardian reported on Thursday, January 19.
"Lots of people have written about women and Islam, lots of people have written about Islam and media or women and media, but they haven't been brought together before," Dr Eylem Atakav, a graduate of Ankara University and lecturer at University of East Anglia (UEA), said.
Developing the course, Atakav focused on topics about women and Islam which usually get the focus of media coverage.
The 12-week module, the first of its kind in UK, will cover issues about the topics of hijab, arranged marriage and "honor" crimes and the way they are portrayed in contemporary film, TV and other media.
Study materials include films and TV programs from around the world, including Iran, the US, Turkey and China.
Launching this week, 18 third-year students have enrolled with roughly equal numbers of men and women signing up for the module.
Atakav said the course had added relevance in the light of the Arab spring and new forms of political activism by women.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2 million who have taken full brunt of anti-terror laws since the 7/7 attacks.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
Atakav said she hopes the course would be an important way of changing perceptions of Islam.
"We will look at how the media talk about 'honor'-based violence, for example. If it's a Middle Eastern woman who happens also to be a Muslim woman it's called an 'honor crime', she said.
But if it's a British woman who was killed because her husband was jealous because she was having an affair with another man, it's called murder.
"These crimes happen everywhere in the world, it's not just a Muslim, or just a Middle Eastern thing."
In Islam, there is no place for unjustifiable killing as the case in honor killing.
Even in case of capital punishment, only the government can apply the law through the judicial procedures.
Though portrayed in the Western media as exhorted by Islam, honor killing is a cultural act and has nothing to do with the faith.
Journalist and broadcaster Nabila Ramdani agrees there is a need to challenge stereotypes.
"The media caricatures [Muslim women]," Ramdani said.
It is the same kind of media treatment which sees Muslim men portrayed as swarthy types with beards or - at worst - potential terrorists.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net