Friday, March 10, 2006

It's still a misconception, remember

Minnesota teen's book aims to give voice to Muslim women

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- In February 2005, when most teen girls were hoping for roses or chocolates, 17-year-old Chiara Kovarik received her dream valentine: the acceptance of her book manuscript by a Minneapolis publishing company.

The teen stands out from her peers in many ways, including the subject she chose to explore in her 174-page book, Interviews With Muslim Women of Pakistan.

"Most young adult books focus on teen body image or dating tips," Kovarik said.

Her book offers a fresh perspective on a nation that became a partner in the war on terror.

Kovarik, a senior at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights, spent a month in Pakistan in the summer 2001. The then-13-year-old found herself fascinated by the Muslim women she encountered.

"I'd gone with the typical ideas that the women were oppressed and they're all covered up and they don't have the right to speak, and I was finding that a lot of those previous notions I had were not true, or at least were a bit skewed in the way they had been presented to me," said Kovarik, a member of St. John Neumann Parish in Eagan.


So you're going along with these assumptions. You go over there, and realize that practically all of these assumptions are accurate. Read on.


Her father suggested she interview the women for an article or book.

"At first I blew off the idea, but then I thought, 'Well, if I'm really interested in this there must be a lot of other people who would be, too,'" she said in an interview with the Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Kovarik wanted to correct misconceptions about the Muslim women and to amplify their voices. Thus began the challenging process of conducting interviews.


One of these "misconceptions" about Muslim women is that, even in "moderate" Islam, they are essentially told to shut up. This is obviously a misconception, though, so tell me again why an innocent interview so hard to set up?


Many women declined Kovarik's interview request, and even after some agreed, she still had to obtain an OK from a male relative in each case. More than half of the men said no.


Ok, so we're sure that it's a misconception that women can't quite easily give their opinion, yet the women still had to get permission from their husbands in order to speak to this girl. Oooo-kay. And then it says further in the article that even when the husband did give his wife permission, quite a few of the men insisted on being there at the interview to approve of the questions asked and of the answers given. But don't worry, Islam is still an equality-teaching, non-women-suppressing, not to mention peaceful, religion.