How an Islamic Woman Shifted Her Society’s Religious Outlook on Females



“I decided to use their defense as my offense.”

Alaa Murabit was born in Canada and brought up in a household with two Muslim parents from Libya, and was one of eleven children. At the age of fifteen, she returned to Libya to study and experience the culture of her faith. Once there, she realized that the terms “culturally unacceptable” and “religiously prohibited” were being tossed around carelessly to describe the actions of women, and more personally, the actions of herself. At the beginning of the Libyan Revolution, Alaa experienced a new sense of being invited to the table, and she saw women of her faith being included in political discussions and plans. However, this quickly faded due to the persuasion of religious figures and teachers in her community, who used scriptures to put women ‘back in their place’. Alaa was chastened by the oppression she was witnessing, so she decided to analyze her religion’s scriptures through a different lens, finding support for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the text that had once been used as a weapon against her. She states, “By changing the message, we were able to provide an alternative narrative, which promoted the rights of women in Libya.”
Her journey thus far has not gone without trials and tribulations, and she has become victim to hatred on both extremes of the political spectrum. Most dauntingly is that Alaa found herself on the list of Moammar Gadhafi’s 11 most-wanted women in Zawiya. However, she viewed these opponents as obstacles and hurdles that she could overcome, and pushed through instead of allowing adversity to stop her. Alaa has run various successful and widely publicized campaigns for gender equality within her religion, utilizing scripture from the Qur’an  to fuel her point of view. Alaa was able to shift her community’s ideology, without having to alter or go against their religious foundation. Most importantly, Alaa was able to fight this battle against misogyny without losing faith in her God and her religion. She emphasizes, “I remain a very strong believer that women’s rights and religion are not mutually exclusive.”

Watch her Ted talk here

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