Getting to Know Dr. Yvonne Haddad
Professor of The History of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
DI: Tell me something about yourself:
YH: First of all, I’m not a Muslim — a lot of people make that mistake. I grew up in Syria and my husband is Jordanian. I came to the United States in 1963. I’m a Presbyterian.
DI: Are you a feminist?
YH: I have no idea. I didn’t join the National Organization of Women, like a lot of Muslim women. I believe women have rights. That’s true already of most Arab countries. Syria had women studying engineering way before [the United States] did.
DI: How is the Iraq War affecting Muslim women in the United States?
YH: More Muslim women in the U.S. are wearing the veil because there’s a feeling that we’ve imposed a war on Islam, not only on terrorism. “Islamization” is all over these days. In Cairo, Egypt, it used to be one-third covered and now its 98 percent. They’re covering willingly in rejection of the Bush doctrine, which they see as “Impose American values or we’ll bomb you.”
DI: Do you see this “Islamization” as affecting U.S. Muslim women in college?
YH: The opposite, if you wear a scarf, you’re saying “I’m not available sexually” and you are insulating yourself and not indulging in campus life, which is drinking and sex.
DI: You conducted a study of Muslim women in America — what did you find?
YH: The younger women talk about marriage; they want to marry someone in their culture. The problem is that the younger Muslim men can marry Christians and Jews, but women can’t. So there’s a surplus of women and a feeling that, if you’re past 25, you are old.
DI: Is the experience of Black Muslims in America different?
YH: Sure. Black Islam came out of the ghetto in reaction to racism in urban areas. Blacks migrated from the South to Chicago and Detroit, thinking these were liberal places, but no. When Malcolm X started preaching, it spread. If you look at their teachings, it’s parallel to the Ku Klux Klan, but they believe the White man is evil. It has nothing to do with Islam.
DI: What is the state of Muslim studies in U.S. higher education?
YH: There are quite a few positions available now. There’s a demand; students are asking for it. The government needs people to understand Muslims and speak Arabic, so there is a lot of money supporting this. I’m a professor at the School of Foreign Service, and the students used to go into the State Department; now they’re going to the CIA. The society is obsessed with security and the idea that there are secret cells among us. It’s part of the police state being created.
— By Christina Asquith
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