The issue of Muslim women is the subject of many controversies deliberately created by Orientalists. The main theme of their attacks against Islam is that, Islam gave women an inferior position. It is incorrect to say that Islam discriminated against the women because, when we look at the Islamic rules, we will find that Islam gave certain rights to everyone. For example, women have to cover more parts of their body. However, the woman does not have to work; for her, working is a choice that she can elect not to do. But for men, working is an obligation; men will get punished by Allah if they do not work to earn the Rizq. Also, the money that the woman makes (either through her work, if she decides to, or through gifts, family fortune, and inheritance) is for herself, and she can spend this money the way she wants. However, the money that a man earns must be spent upon his family. Even if the woman is extremely wealthy (perhaps because she comes from a wealthy family) and the man has a middle-class salary, still the man must provide for her and for their children, and the woman can either use her wealth to assist her husband or she can use it to buy a private mansion for herself. The choice is hers.
Therefore, if we look at Islam from the point of view of discrimination, then we will find that Islam discriminates against everything, which is an oxymoron.
What is discrimination ?
Discrimination is to favour somebody at the expense of somebody else, and you cannot favour everybody at the expense of everyone. The correct stance is to say that discrimination does not even apply to Islam, because, for one thing, Allah is above and beyond favouring a group of people at the expense of another group. This would mean that Allah is not just. Secondly, viewing the Islamic rules from the point of view of discrimination would make no sense because, as we mentioned, the Islamic rules seem to favour everyone while discriminating against everyone. Non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic State must pay the Jizya, but Muslim citizens must pay the Zakat, and non-Muslim citizens are allowed to drink alcohol, eat pork, and even buy and sell these commodities among themselves. In addition, non-Muslims do not have to enlist in the Islamic army, but they get the protection from the Islamic army. Also, Islam allows us to hunt animals, and we slaughter animals for food, but you can go to Hell for torturing animals.
The point of all of this is to illustrate that we cannot look at the Islamic rules from the point of view of discrimination. Rather, the correct viewpoint is to look at the Islamic rules from the point of view that these rules are from Allah, who is the Creator. And Allah (swt) revealed these rules to organize our affairs in a manner that, if they are implemented and obeyed, will lead to tranquility for the individual and prosperity and progress for the society. Going back to men and women, some Islamic rules are gender-specific; Allah gave certain obligations and rights to the man, and He gave certain rights and obligations to the woman. And some rules are general and apply to both men and women; for example, praying, fasting, carrying the Daw'ah, working to establish the Islamic system, are obligations that Allah has placed upon both men and women. And the equality is that, if both men and women fulfill their obligations and obey the commands of Allah (both in regards to rules that apply only to their gender as well as to the rules that apply to everyone), their reward will be equal on the Day of Judgment.
Muslims in the past understood this. They realized that, when the woman covers, she is not obeying her husband or father; rather, she is obeying Allah. Also, when the man works to feed his family, he is obeying Allah, and he does not go out and break his back to earn a living to please his wife, his parents, his family, or anyone. Rather, the man works to please Allah by fulfilling his obligation that Allah placed upon him as a man. As a result of this understanding, the Muslim world never suffered ''gender wars'' or a ''battle of the sexes'' like what happened in the West.
Also, we must realize that Islam gave the woman rights and elevated the status of the woman in a way that no society or culture was able to do. Fourteen centuries ago, Islam gave woman the right to conduct business and earn money like the man, engage in politics, earn an education and pursue knowledge, and even fight in battle. The West, until very recently, was debating whether or not the woman had a soul, and even today, the prevailing notion in the West is that the woman is the ''devil,'' which has its roots in the idea that Eve tempted Adam. However, this view does not even exist in Islam; in fact, if you read the Qur'anic ayahs talking about Adam, you will see that Shaitan tempted both of them. And when Allah was reprimanding them, you will find that Allah is speaking to Adam directly. You will not find any ayah in the Qur'an mentioning Eve (Hawwa') speaking to Allah; it is as if the Qur'an is presenting it in such a way that Adam was the one at fault, and hence, he was the one who turned to repent. Therefore, given this history, it is no surprise to see the women in the West resort to feminism and outright hatred of men (lesbianism), as a natural reaction to the way their society and culture viewed the women. However, this was never a problem in Islam, which is why concepts like feminism and ''women's liberation'' had to be imported and shoved down the throats of the Muslims by deception and coercion in order for them to take root among Muslims.
If there appears to be any discrimination practiced among women among Muslims nowadays, then it is not because of Islam, but because of the local cultures, whether Arab culture, Pakistani culture, or any other culture. Unfortunately, when Islam departed from our minds as a reference, this left a cultural vacuum, and the local cultures filled the void. And because of the decline in our understanding of Islam, and of the difference between Islamic culture and between these local cultures, many of these local cultures became mixed with Islam in our minds, and nowadays, these cultural practices and customs are presented ''in the name of Islam.'' Therefore, it is not the fault of Islam that women are discriminated against or persecuted in the Muslim world; rather, it is because of these local cultures, whether they are ''in the name of Islam'' or under any other name. And the burden is upon us to clarify our thinking so that we understand the difference between Islam on the one hand, and local cultures on the other.
The Orientalists cleverly attacked many rules and aspects of the Islamic system and culture, and we mistakenly rushed to the defensive and assumed an apologetic stance. And once we chose to tread this route, then we began to apologize for everything, to the point that we have to apologize for being Muslims!
The mistake that we made is that we try to present Islam the way other people want, rather than simply presenting Islam as it is. When we present to the people that Islam is the truth, along with the conclusive, irrefutable evidences that prove that Islam is correct, then the others will be on the defensive and the burden will placed upon them to either accept or reject the truth.
However, by assuming an apologetic stance, the standard became how the West perceives Islam. As a result, we began to evaluate the correctness of Islam based upon how the West perceives Islam, and not based upon the correctness of Islam as an idea established upon irrefutable, conclusive proofs that no objective mind can deny. And by doing so, the West maintains a firm intellectual grip upon us; all they need to do to change our behaviour and outlook is to change their perception of Islam, and we would scramble for apologies and loopholes in order to reshape Islam to fit their new perception!! As an example, if homosexuality is increasingly becoming acceptable to the West,It does not mean Islamic rules should be modified to suit the Western standard.
Therefore, we need to realize that all of these attacks have no merit, and they will not change the fact that Islam is the truth. Let them believe that the hijab is oppression and let them launch all the attacks they want. This will not change the fact that Allah exists, this will not change the fact that the Qur'an is the Word of Allah or that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, or that Islam is the system from Allah the Creator and is therefore correct, and part of this system is the hijab. What would change this is, if they actually can prove that Islam is wrong (i.e., that Allah swt does not exit or that the Qur'an is not from Allah swt). However, they do not approach us directly for discourse and they have nothing to stand upon to prove they idea is true.
As a result, they have to attack us using more discrete means, one of which is to attack certain rules based on logic and ''scare'' us into a defensive position. And we should not fall into this trap and debate with them on a intellectual discourse and elevate they understanding and guide them to the true understanding of Islam.