Hasan Speaks Out for American Muslim Women
by Howard W. Hewitt
March 31, 2005
Asma Gull Hasan does not wear a veil to cover her head.
She believes women should worship alongside Muslim men in Mosques.
She writes about social topics many in her religion consider taboo for
Hasan, 29, author of two books, columnist, U.S. State Department
Ambassador, and frequent media news guest, spoke to nearly 100 students
and faculty at Wabash College Thursday night.
"There are so many myths about Islam," Hasan said. "There are more myths
than there are actually things known about Islam in this country. When
you’re a speaker about Islam you’re sort of trained to be addressing the
myths. It’s hard to make progress toward greater understanding when
you’re too busy addressing the stereotype."
And true to her own post-speech analysis, Hasan spent most of her formal
presentation debunking perceptions. She elects not to cover her head as
many Muslim women do and she pointed out that many of the negative
images of her religion are debunked when she researches the points in
the Islam holy book, the Koran.
She peppers her presentation with humor and a light-hearted approach
that many found disarming.
"Actually what she brought to my attention was this idea that traditions
aren’t a part of Islam because I’m sure everyone has in the back of
their minds these horrible ideas about Islam," Indianapolis senior David
Rusk said. "I think why would we allow a religion like that to exist in
the world and she specifically attacks those ideas saying there is
nothing in the Koran that says Muslims should do these things."
Hasan even acknowledges the approach has been part of her success.
"Most people hear the words Muslim American woman and they’re instantly
threatened," she said. "They think I’m going to come in and say American
foreign policy is bad, America mistreats women and whatever else.
Everybody just assumes I’m going to have all negative things to say,
sometimes you can just feel the tension. That’s why I try to be funny
and make fun of myself."
And she related to her all-male counterparts. A 1997 graduate of
all-female Wellesley College, she compared Islam to Wabash College’s
Gentlemen’s Rule. The Gentlemen’s Rule, the only rule governing Wabash
men, encourages students to conduct themselves at all times in a
"Islam has a similar sort of spirit," she said. "I think we all want to
be quiet and spiritually strong. I fail at the quiet part but Islam
believes in one God and to be strong."
Rusk enjoyed her views on Islam while personally contemplating his own
"I’ve been having similar bouts with Christianity," he said. "I just
finished talking to my fraternity brother about her speech and he was
kind of disappointed. He wanted this revelation to come out of it. I was
saying you run across this with every religion. You have text and you
have different interpretations.
"I really enjoyed it because she took things from it and said I have
this traditional view on this and I have this contemporary and more
modern view on that. I was very, very satisfied."
Besides regular contributions to a number of publications, Hasan has
written opinion pieces for the New York Times, Dallas Morning
News, and San Francisco Chronicle. She has been a frequent
guest on a number of Fox News Channel programs.
She has also worked for the United States State Department as an
ambassador around the world. She visited England and France last fall.
"Well first, they don’t tell me what to say," she said. "I tell them I
don’t want people to feel sorry for American Muslims. I think Muslims
living in American have a good life. Like all Americans, we have a
chance to make a lot of money, live a quiet life, go shopping at the
mall and go to baseball games.
"There are no barriers unique to Muslims, just the same barriers that
other ethnic or religious people face. I don’t think Muslims are any
more mistreated than other people."
In responding to a question, she did say American Muslims were
profoundly affected after 9-11. But the overwhelming emotion was one of
comfort at the number of Americans who rallied to support them.
Still, she said, there are always concerns.
"We as Muslims are more suspicious than concerned. I don’t want to get
stopped for speeding. And I really don’t want my brother to get stopped
for speeding. There is nothing scarier than being a young Muslim male in
She is not afraid to offer controversial opinions, but often does so in
a non-threatening way.
"A lot of Muslims don’t like me because I don’t wear the cover and I’m
too liberal. People may not agree with what you say but people respond
to honesty and genuine feelings."
Hasan's appearance was sponsored by the Wabash College Muslim Student
Hewitt is Wabash College's Director of New Media and Web Editor.
At top right: Hasan signs books and talks with a group of Wabash men
after her Mar. 31 speech.
Lower right: Hasan listens to a student question during her book
On homepage:Hasan shakes hands with David Rusk after signing her
book for him and answering questions.
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