Lecturer dispels myths about Muslims

By Lisa Heller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 3, 1996

Anne Betteridge spends her life trying to break down the stereotypes applied to Muslim women.

"People think that they are veiled women, oppressed, passive victims," said Betteridge, adjunct assistant professor in middle eastern studies. "They are getting some truth, but not the whole truth."

In her lecture, "Under Wraps: Barriers to Understanding Muslim Women in the Middle East," last night, Betteridge said one reason for the stereotypes is language barriers.

"There is a lack of understanding of Islam. Sources like the movie 'Not Without My Daughter' highly sensationalize them. It's not typical," she said.

Her lecture, which drew about 150 people, was the third in this year's Faculty Community Lecture Series.

Betteridge lived in Iran from 1974 to 1979 and said she noticed a difference in the role of women between Iran and the United States.

"In Iran, the focus on family is strong and divorce is rare," she said. "A woman can be a professional and the family takes care of the baby."

She also stressed the reason for the dress of Muslim women was in her lecture. In the Islamic culture, women still have to wear Islamic dress, which includes wearing a veil.

"Veiling means many things. People assume it means one thing to everyone," Betteridge said.

"Wearing a veil is a personal choice," said A. Abdulla, criminal justice sophomore. "It is just between you and God." Abdulla asked not to have her full name printed out of respect for her Islamic community.

The practice of veiling is for a variety of reasons which differ in every community, said Betteridge.

"A woman could veil for religious reasons, because of her devout nature, to make it easier to work in the company of unrelated men, or because her culture requires her to wear it," she said. "It has been compared to wearing sunglasses in Western culture. It is a sign of social status; the higher status, the higher the veil."

Betteridge added that women often veil in front of people they might marry. They cover themselves up as to not attract sexual attention.

She said promoting the understanding of Muslim women is important because "dehumanization is not helpful. It is too easy of a thing to dismiss, people should get past that."