FEATURE VOLUME. 7 ISSUE. 2
OPENING DOORS TO NEW WORLDS
by Tahira Khalid
When secondary education teacher, Iman bint Saleem Khalid arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) city of Al-Ain from Detroit in 2009, she had no idea the impact her teaching would have. Now, she knows her students receive powerful knowledge far beyond correct verb conjugation and excellent essay composition; these young women have learned they can be educated without compromising their religion and they’ve learned about Muslims in America.
For centuries, female students in Abu Dhabi, one of the richest districts in the UAE, believed the pursuit of education meant religious concessions they were unwilling to make; however, in recent years, the role of women there has advanced greatly, making it a leader in women’s rights in the Arab world.
In the 2007-2008 United Nations Development Program Report under Gender Empowerment Measures, UAE ranked 29th among 177 countries, the best rating received in the Arab world. In the 2011 UN Report the UAE ranked 30th on the Human Development Index, the highest of any Muslim-majority country. Indeed, the UAE constitution guarantees equality between men and women, including legal status and access to education.
Emirati women who take advantage of their educational opportunities might find themselves taught by an American Muslimah. Approximately 2,000 teachers of various ethnicities are teaching in the Emirates; 400 of these teachers identify as African American, while only 75 of the teachers are Muslim women. This article tells the stories of five African Americans who have experienced astonishment at their ethnicity, religion and career choices.