Grad student hopes to educate others about women and Islam

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    By Aapree Hancey

    A Muslim graduate student gave her PhD Prospectus Defense yesterday, May 6, to the Educational Leadership and Foundations committee.

    Hilda Sabbah, a mother of three, presented her research on the educational opportunities for Muslim girls in the United States.

    “My main goal is to study the girls in Islamic schools because nobody studied them before,” Sabbah said.

    Islam gives equal rights to men and women as a religion, and Sabbah said the United States educational system has some problems regarding gender. Sabbah said this part of the educational system is rarely studied.

    Part of her research is based on theories of social constructions and problems of the United States and also other countries.

    “The world has a misunderstood idea of Islam as a religion and how they treat women and other related misunderstandings,” she said. “In this piece, I hope to reveal some truth.”

    Her research has allowed her to be accepted to the doctoral program in which she will study Islamic schools in the United States, with an emphasis on policy. She also received her master”s degree in educational leadership and foundations.

    “I”m always interested and want to improve women”s education and girls” education anywhere,” Sabbah said. “I have a passion towards that.”

    Sabbah said she hopes that other women will want to find out more about Islamic beliefs and how it fits into education.

    “Unfortunately, many people mispractice Islamic teachings.” Sabbah said. “Ancient Islamic prophets give equal rights to men and women. I want to clarify this point. I want to get my research published, which will help in clarifying many ambiguities about Islam and Muslim rights.”

    Sabbah said it is important to know whether or not girls in Islamic schools in the United States are disadvantaged as compared to boys, and if their religious and civil rights to receive equal education as boys are being violated or upheld.

    Sabbah was a born a Muslim in Jerusalem. While in Jerusalem, she worked in the cultural section of the American consulate and had contacts with the BYU Jerusalem Center. She got to know the director, R. J. Snow, and he told her about BYU and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints communities. Already married, she wanted her children to grow-up in a conservative environment.

    “If it”s not an Islamic environment, then something similar to that,” she said.

    Her husband first came to BYU to get his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with an emphasis on water conservation.

    “I owe it to my religion because I am a Muslim, first of all, and I am woman … I am having all my rights,” Sabbah said. “I want to pass that on. I am a living example of that.”

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