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Boys, Girls, and Double Standards

Double standards for boys and girls?

It is often seen that there are different limitations for males and females, especially within sons and daughters of the same family. Due to cultural perceptions of females, there may be a disparity of rights and freedoms granted to daughters in their youth. This does not simply imply restrictions on social outings.

Double standards for boys and girls?In order for us to develop into well-rounded and moral individuals, it is crucial to live by appropriate parameters and guidelines. As Muslim youth, we are privileged to be raised according to the laws of Islam and are taught its manifestation through the role model of our parents. Growing up in this society has revealed that adolescence is a constant struggle and journey of growth. Therefore, although our religiosity and morale are initially founded from Islamic teachings, they are honed through daily practice and decision-making.

This process, guided by our parents, ranges from their support in academic and extra-curricular endeavors to providing a foundation on which to base acquisition of knowledge and practice of ethics. On a regular basis, these actions are accomplished through use of rules and restrictions. Every family has experienced the need to set boundaries and limitations in order to raise children with discipline and integrity while simultaneously allowing the freedom necessary for maturation and self-reliance.

In various cultures, these efforts are manifested in different ways. It is often seen that there are different limitations for males and females, especially within sons and daughters of the same family. Due to cultural perceptions of females, there may be a disparity of rights and freedoms granted to daughters in their youth. This does not simply imply restrictions on social outings. Rather, it is also seen when girls are prevented from attending religious or academic events due to late night timings, distance from home, etc. Issues may arise when girls choose to attend school away from home or pursue activities or work outside of the community.

Shireen Khan, 21, has experienced such a phenomenon when seeing which freedoms were allotted to her while growing up versus what privileges her 20 year old brother received. She said, “Girls and boys are different in a lot of ways. It is true that girls are vulnerable to certain things, but I don’t think that should prevent us from self-development. It seems like in general, when guys are just given more freedom, they abuse it. My brother doesn’t abuse his privileges, but I think boys would be more likely to if they never have to answer to parents.”

According to Khan, the need to be independent in such cases is very important. When parents hold on to daughters by imposing tighter restrictions on them, they are causing them to rely too much on others. This means they won’t be prepared to leave home, whether it’s for marriage or simply to move away for the first time. “I know girls who don’t even drive at night because they are very insecure,” said Khan. “When it comes to an emergency situation, how will they take care of themselves if they can’t do something so common?” In this case, young women are raised in an environment where they are too sheltered. Throughout their upbringing, they have been taught what their roles aught to be, rather than what their roles have to the potential to become. For example, we may see this when women choose to not live away for college, in spite of receiving great opportunities.

Khan said that “parents need to understand these priorities when it comes to education. Whether a girl can or can’t go out on a regular basis isn’t an issue, but for education you have to make that leap and come out of the nest.” This hope, or rather assumption, that both daughters and sons are equally competent and able to be responsible individuals when left on their own comes from the belief that parents must do a great job in raising their children. This entails helping them grow to be youth who can be trusted and are capable of living Islamically-motivated sound and balanced lives.

Some parents believe that it is better to be equally strict on all children regardless of age or gender. In another youth’s home, “Neither the girls or guys can sleep over at their friend’s home. I think it’s fair because my mother isn’t bias towards anyone and no one feels left out.” However, she said the drawback of such a situation is that being too sheltered causes youth to lack life experience and personal development skills.

This concept brings us to the importance of independence. It is a difficult and challenging task to identify where the lines should be drawn to both allow for maturation and establish some restriction. Culturally, we often see that the reins are loosened on young boys earlier and more freely. As a society, we have a notion of believing they will be able to care for themselves and defend themselves when need be. Of course, there is a basis of this belief, but does this notion cause us to stifle young daughters? The notions of letting children have the freedom to pursue their Islamic and academic interests to maximum depend on the fact that they are able and competent to do so. Khan believes, “The need to be independent is very important. When parents hold on to their daughters too much, it is hard for them to do that.” Therefore, perhaps it would be easier to help a daughter live a lifestyle where she is given a fair amount of leniency. If this is simply the ability to make their own choices in minor situations, it will help them make greater more informed major decisions later on. This “life experience” will help foster skills needed for the future.

Yet is important to make the distinction between what are equal rights in Islam and what society has imposed. It is clear that in Islam, males and females have equal but different rights based on gender roles. According to Zishan Bader, 23, “It is not in every aspect of the law. You can’t give the same privileges to guys and girls on every issue.” He said he recognizes that the discrepancies which arise are due to culture, not religion. “It’s true, a guy can get away with a lot. That is due to how our culture works. Parents follow it, and no one stands up to change things. It’s too much of a hassle, and people don’t want to put in the time and energy to revolutionize the situation, so instead they abide by culture.”

It therefore gives communities a way to avoid facing the issues and follow societal norms. Hence, these culture norms still define our behavior. The reputation of young youth is not always simply dependent on inner character and morale, but it also is determined by what is seen outwardly by behavior and action. This reputation is a very delicate possession that is based on one’s goodness and respect in the community. Bader said he believes, “Once a girl’s reputation is tainted, it hurts her in the long run. Nothing can change that. At the end of the day, when a family is bringing a new girl into their home, they want someone who is good and with a perfect reputation.” Therefore, it seems that it would behoove parents to protect this blessing within girls and preserve their integrity.

Nonetheless, there is still a struggle present when individuals focus on doing what is only Halal (permissible), but their actions are misconstrued as incriminatory. For instance, continuing a late night youth Islamic discussion at the local coffee shop afterhours may inherently not be Haram (prohibited), but the way that the situation is perceived by community elders can be very damaging. Therefore, at times it is necessary to consider what image each action or event will present, even if in our minds there may not be an blatantly haram issue. These confusions and misconceptions are what begin rumors and bring can blemish on one’s purity.

After such emphasis on what changes can be granted towards our young females, it is crucial to consider what alterations can be done to positively help young males. Shereen Yousef, 22, said she feels that, “For boys, although their reputation may not be as much on the line as girls, they still have a responsibility to their faith. They have so much freedom culturally that sometimes it is abused and they cross their Islamic boundaries. In this case, there needs to be a middle ground for both sides. Young women should be allowed to gain more independence only if it doesn’t break Islamic boundaries, but boys need to hold back a little bit at times too. Parents have a responsibility in making sure this is enforced. It’s best to follow the rule that if something will make your daughter look bad, it will make your son look bad as well.”

Again, this does not mean that girls’ freedoms should be as liberal as those of boys, but girls should not be restricted from things that are not Islamically wrong. Yousef emphasized, “The key to know where your boundaries are and see how far you can grow within them. Parents should work to hold up that Islamic standard. It shouldn’t only be your standing in the community that guides behavior; it should be your faith.” This hints on the opposite extreme that only your image matters and faith is disregarded. Unfortunately, some youth also believe that they can commit any action in secret if it is not brought to light in the community. In the end, however, if you work to grow as an individual and perform every action to increase your faith and nearness to Allah, this mentality alone will keep you grounded and structured

The solution to such an imbalance is not to impose upon sons and daughters the same boundaries. Rather, it is to understand the roles of men and women in Islam and base their upbringing upon these factors. This progression can only come about by educating parents and creating understanding in communities. As Bader stated, “There is a need for more awareness. When families are more cultural than religious, this problem probably exists in that environment. If they go by Islamic rules and are open-minded, then such things may not be a big issue.” Thus, understanding the nature of gender roles and differences in Islam, not culture, is most crucial to create equality amongst our youth.

About Sukaina Hussain

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  • wondering

    [quote]Again, this does not mean that girls’ freedoms should be as liberal as those of boys, but girls should not be restricted from things that are not Islamically wrong.[/quote]

    Shouldn’t the criteria be the same for both – that neither should be restricted from what is Islamically wrong, both should be protected from danger, and both should learn to be self-reliant to handle situations on their own when need be? What exactly should be different for girls’ freedoms than boys? I can’t think of many things a girl shouldn’t be allowed to do just because of her gender, except that there might be some things I would feel safer if she did them in a group than traveling alone, etc.,- but in this day and age, I would want the same for boys. Are these ideas really Islamic or just cultural? Shouldn’t the boys’ reputations matter as much as girls? Shouldn’t a girl have a right to expect a ‘pure’ boy as much as the other way around? Boys being given free reign without responsibility just leads them astray as much if not more than girls left in similar situations, and their sins are not less serious than those of a girl – in some cases they may be more so! If a boy is rising to higher responsibility in a family, then he may need certain privilege commensurate to that responsibility, but the same is true for a girl.

  • wondering

    [quote]that neither should be restricted from what is Islamically wrong, [/quote] correction: islamically good/right (not wrong)

  • Genderdefender

    What I have a problem with in the current trends of time is that, the world has overemphasised the importance of disrespect towards women. It disgusts me greatly to see Western Media being quick in their criticism of Islam and its apparent “oppression of women’s rights” and thereby dismiss Nations of Islamic Majority and Culture. We don’t have very far to look in the way these know-it-all Media mouthpieces portray Women in western cultures. The promise of relationships between individuals, and creating an image of vulgarity based on nudity, revolves around the concept of women in Western nations as sex objects. These DOUBLE standards should be addressed instead of their criticisms directed towards Islam. Islam created the concept of respect for Women, it taught the Arabs of what a woman really is capable of. For Islam’s arrival has forever, created a sphere for the woman, and her responsiblities. She is the central figure on the houseold, as we know from our Great Mawla (S.A.W)’s reference to Hazrat Fatima (A.S.) in the Holy Hadeeth-e-Kisa. I acknowledge that certain cultures are questionable for their treatment of women, but then again, nothing anywhere is perfect! The first mention of hijab in the Quran was for men and not women! Yes! You read right Men! Not women. In the case of males, the reference of Hijab for males, refers to the gaze and the AlMighty’s orders to males to “lower their gaze”. So it’s time for the Western critics of Islam to pull their socks up, put their mouthpieces down, and get to some real work such as working on the plight of their Women! Don’t teach us how to look after ourselves, We have Islam to teach us and protect us!
    Another danger worth noting is that, the nagging by Western Media has led to the introduction of some gutter concepts such as Femininity and “Independance”( which is far from the truth)! To allow such concepts to flourish, is to invite trouble and sow the seeds of disasters waiting to happen!

  • Anonymous

    I’m not absolutely supporting or rejecting what the parents of the society do because it’s hard to make a generalization in this situation.
    Anyhow, one of the duties of parents as upbringers of their children (doesn’t matter if it’s a boy/girl), is also to protect their kids. Hence, it is incumbent upon parents to make the right decisions towards protection* of their kids, whether the kids like it or not. If being too liberal with them can hamper their “self-development,” then parents must be careful to not be too liberal. In addition, every child is different; what might spoil or influence one kid, may not have the same effect on the other siblings of the same family. So parents need to look into the personality, the strengths and weaknesses, etc of each of their kids and give them the freedom that they can handle. So I don’t think we can frame a general rule in terms of how much freedom can be or cannot be granted to kids.

    *Protection not only in terms of safety, but also protection of Eman (faith) so that they don’t fall into anything wrong.

  • Mona

    i dont quite see the point of this article, even non muslims are protective of their daughters. maybe its a social requirement? also, i feel islamic insights was wrong to give this piece the top spot whilst there were far more deserving pieces. this was just a long piece with no purpose.

  • a mother

    Salaam. Please take my critique as it is (on the article only) and not personally. This piece was poorly edited (2nd to last paragraph – “Unfortunately, some youth also believe that they can commit any action in secret if it is not BROUGHT to light in the community.” Not “bright to light”) Though the idea and direction were good, the substance was also lacking. Who were these students interviewed? There was no introduction. Why weren’t any experts consulted for the article, such as “family experts” or an Islamic theologian or leader? This piece could have really been a bang, but it missed the mark. I agree, also, with some of the other commentators. For example, what “Islamic freedoms” are boys allowed that girls are not? These were never illustrated. Why weren’t any parents interviewed? I wish the author luck and prayers for her next article. Salaam.

  • Abdullah

    Mashallah, what a great article! Thank you sister for highlighting these important points, issues which are unfortunately very commonplace in our communities. There is actually a hadith of the Holy Prophet (saww) where he strongly condemns those who treat their children unequally, so I am very glad you brought this issue to light in such an eloquent and cogent manner. May Allah increase your tawfeeqs, and may He guide us all towards His best obedience.

  • shiapride

    salaam. Honestly, I thought the article touched on a very important and clearly controversial topic on restrictions for the genders. The truth is, nowadays cultural beliefs on reputation really do dictate how the genders are treated. and even though i understand where you are coming from “wondering” about equality in treatment and restrictions, the truth of the matter is culture does play a role, and women do usually get more restrictions and suffer more for breaking them. For example, when we find out that two people are dating, it’s usually the girls reputation that gets tainted…not the man’s.

    I think the that there are two significant aspects to young Muslims growing up in this country: one’s standing in the community i.e. their reputation, and one’s faith overall. Both are equally important and I think that since young women are more at risk for their reputation to be tainted they have more of a responsibility socially. It is a struggle to find a balance though which i think the article is trying to highlight. And i think since boys have more freedoms, like being able to date without harm to their rep, or staying out all night perhaps clubbing and drinking, they have a struggle to be true to their faith.

    Either way, I’m happy this article was written and it’s about time someone wrote about these inequalities and purposed a solution. Since the parents are the one’s trying to find that balance, that it makes sense that this part of the solution, in addition to the different roles we play as young Muslim men and women in this country.

  • HiddenSoldier

    Sis, well done! Alhamdulilah someone has finally pointed out what not many of us [like the commentator: ”a mother”] don’t like to hear! That’s exactly the point, people do not realise that the youth actually appreciate the protection we get from our parents, yet when that protection keeps the youth back, particularly the females from personal development, educational opportunities, community involvement and sometimes, the strengthening of faith, well then….where is the balance between the genders there?

    Surely it is not intentional, yet rather a cultural stroke of colour added to the lives of the younger generation by the guardians. Thanks for adding the ideas of the young people you interviewed, which really brought the article to life. Sis, looking forward to your next article already!

    Thumbs up to the author and the Islamic Insights team for this masterpiece! This article is so great, I think I’m going to start it as a chain letter! 🙂

  • thinker

    [quote]I think the that there are two significant aspects to young Muslims growing up in this country: one’s standing in the community i.e. their reputation, and one’s faith overall. Both are equally important[/quote]

    Should they really be equally important? If the reputation is tainted by cultural values over Islamic values, then I contend, no, the reputation should not be given such undue importance. Or rather, one’s reputation should be dependent purely on Islamic factors, which I do not currently think is the case in many instances.

    I would rather have a daughter that was a true believer but did not pay attention to cultural perceptions of her reputation than one who allowed herself to suffer unnecessarily to meet unIslamic cultural expectations.

  • Fatima Ali

    When you allow comments, why delete the ones with criticism? Delete all you guys like, it doesn’t change the fact this article has several shortcomings.. Someone has to say it. If II really cares about the views of the readers, it’ll let our voices be heard. Otherwise, we must ask, who are the articles being put up for?

    We may just have to find elsewhere to read, II is becoming “Chicago Tabloid”

  • admin

    Asalaamu Alaikum,

    We rarely unpublish or ban comments made on our articles. But it is our right to do so for ones that are inappropriate and violate our terms of use. The comments section cannot and will not be used to spread inappropriate messages. As you can see many of the comments are critical. But when they become offensive they will be unpublished.

  • Huda Jawad


    Thank you for addressing such a great topic Sis Sukaina ! You have taken on such a big topic that was long overdue.

    As for the comments, I strongly believe that the suggestions and comments are a joint process between the writers and the readers. Together we can address any issues and God Willing resolve or clear up any questions or concerns. However, in order for for us to work together, we need to first maintain respect and speak in a manner in which Islam would be proud of us for ! We must be willing to be open minded to each other and not level baseless accusations at the Writing Staff, or II as a whole. Keep in mind, in order to progress and grow, we must open our minds and hearts !

    Wa Salamu Aalikum,

  • Rabab Jaffery

    ^Wonderful… I second that! If we really really want to make a positive difference and a change in our communities, we must remember to maintain our unity, our respect for each other, and adhere to Islamic standards of Akhlaq.

  • thinker

    I saw some of those comments before they were deleted and they amounted to personal attacks and therefore it was absolutely appropriate and necessary to remove them.

    Islamic Insights is in my opinion a highly effective and quality online magazine. At the same time, some of its staff are still children, not adults. And all are volunteers, not paid professionals. If someone has a problem with an article, belittling the author is not good akhlaq, nor is it an effective means of addressing the issue. It is childish and unIslamic behavior and it made me question if a commenter had a personal grudge against an author having nothing to do with the article. I would suggest that those who do not like an article write a better one and submit it to II for consideration of publication.

  • Anonymous

    Thinker, I’m sure that children comment was made in gist, however, many of the writers who are dedicating their time and effort would find offense at such terms. The amount of dedication put forth by all these individuals must be commended !

  • thinker

    I just meant that some of them are still legal minors, they are young people, and that should be taken into due consideration before attacking them, and perhaps some people leaving comments were not aware of that. I don’t see how that is offensive.

  • al-ajal


    very well written…I cant believe people are picking at grammatical errors, these things happen, but I’m sure the editors will look more closely next time.

    May Allah (SWT) Bless you Sukaina for taking the dare to write on this topic. Anything controversial is an emotional topic for many to handle. You did a great job with addressing the concerns of the majority of youth, especially youth girls, today.

    In my city, at the Islamic School, the girls are so protected, and not given these minor freedoms, or the other extreme, where they are given too many, and these are the girls we find who are running away from Islam and not motivated to grow spiritually, or intellectually.

    InshaAllah we all learn to raise our children the way the Holy Prophet (SAW) raised Hazrat Fatima (SA), as she is an example for both men and women.

  • Hajja313

    As a writer myself, I must say this is a well-written and well developed piece of work and frankly, I’m surprised that the point of the article has been questioned. Mona, the point is clear that too many cultural allowances are given to Muslim male youth without regard to their ability to act within Islamic guidelines and good reason. Sister Sukaina doesn’t seem to be making an argument for giving women equal liberty as men, but that Islam, not culture or society should set the boundaries for a family’s allowance or disallowance of a particular practice. And yes, non-Muslims are more strict on their daughters….but isn’t that exactly the point? This commonality we share is not one of religion but of a cultural and social bias, that boys are given freedom prematurely. Boys must learn to be independent and aggresive. If they happen to do haram along the way, well, that’s just collatoral damage, right?

    That’s the part that always gets me: parents keeping their own daughters locked up while their sons are going out doing God knows what with someone ELSE’s daughter. Why? Your neighbor’s daughter isn’t as pristine as your own? Her protection isn’t worthy of your care? And I think it’s time we get real and admit one thing to ourselves: most of the haram that exists out there is advertised directly to guys. From magazines to dubious clubs, it’s all about the boys. Maybe the most logical resolution is to keep the guys locked up to prevent them from setting foot into temptation-land. But that would be seen as extreme, right?

    From my life experience, this isn’t and shouldn’t be a guy/girl issue. Freedoms are privileges and should be given on an individual basis depending on how well your Islamic judgment is and if you have proven yourself trustworthy in the eyes of your parents.

    This is a very important piece of work and the vibrant discussion over this matter should continue. It is through these discussions and investigations that we will realize the truth that our Holy Ahl al-Bayt (as) have left for us.

  • Genderdefender

    To those who are quick to point out grammatical errors in the articles here, please do something more worthwhile with your time. It doesn’t reflect very well on those who are ready to field error picking and shortcomings on the part of others. If you’re not game enough to write an article, don’t bother commenting unless its useful. The Islamic Insights team is doing a great job, and its writers are MASHALLAH GOd-gifted. Keep those articles coming Sister Sukaina!

  • Sister

    As another commenter said it is a mutual project to work together between readers and writers. So here are my suggestions, and ……possibly those of others who were unable to state them properly:

    1. the topic is so broad, it may have been better to focus on one subject, ie: Double standards in Education.
    2. I felt the article was essay like and it tended to lose focus.
    3. those defending the writer for the most part lack just as much akhlaq as those attacking?

  • Genderdefender

    It is interesting how “Sister” is so quick to judge others who are “defending” the writer. You have presumptuously misjudged our support of the Editorial team, amidst your misguided view, as a defence. As to judging the Akhlaq of others, it’d be wise to refrain from exercising such personal attacks or judgements, as they are dangerous and hold no place in a public domain such as this. We are all here to embrace this public forum, as a new found success. Certainly, there is room for improvements in articles etc, however, HOW you say it is what matters. Be mindful, that this “essay like” article, is essentially like many others a talented piece of writing, which is written by a sister who like all of us is still learning. So perhaps some words of encouragement would be more beneficial, rather than to caterogically criticize. I regret if my message is offensive, however, it has touched on an issue which is undoubtedly controversial. But we must applaud the Editorial team for their noble efforts. Let’s focus on the content of their message, rather than criticize it!