Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy Religious Studies Students Learn About Women in Islam

Ms. Ortega’s senior religious studies students had the unique opportunity to chat with two Islamic women, who spoke about their lives, customs and the empowerment they experience in their religion.

The speakers included Maria Khan, an educator and public speaker for the Institute of Religious and Civic Values, and Shaista Azad, an attorney and former deputy public defender. Both women insisted that no questions were off limits. Rather, they wanted to help breakdown any stereotypes and broaden understanding by answering every question students could come up with.

For Ms. Ortega, inviting the guest speakers provided an important learning opportunity. “We can talk about Islam or Judaism and the issues facing women today in those cultures but only as outside observers. We get a much more authentic view of those faiths when we can hear, in person, the words of a practitioner or follower of that faith. The image we get of women in Islam or Orthodox Judaism is so one dimensional. We see women who dress differently, who cover up, and who live in what we assume is an oppressive culture. Hearing women talk about the liberation they find in their faiths is eye opening and I hope that message leads our students to find the freedom of our faith as a Catholic community,” Ms. Ortega explained.

The conversation turned to their conservative clothing and their wearing of the hijab, or headscarf. Ms. Azad explained that dressing modestly is a way for her to say, “Respect me as a human being, not for how I look.” While many westerners believe the hijab is meant to oppress women, Ms. Azad and Ms. Khan corrected this misperception. In fact, they find empowerment from dressing modestly.

The students appreciated this opportunity to learn more about the Islamic faith, and one girl noted that she was most impressed to discover that, “learning is a way of worship in Islam.”

In November, Ms. Ortega will introduce her students to Bluma Drebin, who practices Orthodox Judaism and is the director of general studies at YULA Girls High School in Los Angeles.

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, 440 Saint Katherine Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, (626) 685-8500 or visit www.fsha.org.




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