Breaking stereotypes and prejudices is the aim of the new Women & Gender in Islam course at Winthrop. Arzu Uranli, Ph.D, who is originally from Turkey, took the job offering for the course
“There is so much prejudice on Muslim women. In the class, I’m trying to explain that there is a big variety,” Uranli said. “There is no one creature called a Muslim woman. We come in different sizes, different colors and from different backgrounds.”
Uranli is Turkish and practices Islam differently, but her wavy blonde hair and fair complexion drew skepticism from people about her religion and ethnicity.
“When people see me, they assume I’m not Muslim, or that I left the faith,” Uranli said. This motivated her to represent and advocate for the diversity of Islamic women.
“Nobody was speaking for me. And I said that I have to learn more and express myself because I’m here, I’m part of the game,” Uranli said.
Senior psychology major, Rachelle Gandy, said that she is learning the truths about the Islamic faith and the impact of its followers for the first time in her life.
“After a month of being in this class, I can say for a fact that I have learned a variety of new and interesting things regarding the Islamic faith and the intersectionality Muslim women face around the world,” Gandy said, feeling humbled and empowered after each class meeting.
Social work major, Molly Boyle, wants to end the negative narratives about Muslim women and Islam by taking the course. She said people focus on how Muslim women are portrayed as victims that need saving, which is an incorrect view.
“There’s a lot of false information that is given about the Islamic religion. It is a peaceful religion, a respectful one,” Boyle said. “The majority of Muslim women across the globe are educated, empowered, and independent, all while being true followers of the Islamic religion.”
“Teaching is the highest call as an activist and a journalist. It’s good to have a voice in the academic area about the issue,” Uranli said.
Uranli hopes that more students can take the course next semester, especially those outside the religion major or women’s studies minor.
“It’s a social responsibility nowadays for all of us to learn other cultures and religions and to make sense of them,” Uranli said.
The course will be offered next fall for students who are interested. The course is cross-listed with a special topics course in Religion: Women in Islam.