Islam oppresses and degrades women, Islam doesn’t allow Muslim women to be educated and is a backward way of life.
These are some of the statements made by Islamophobes and far right wing groups as they connect Islam to a way of life which looks down on the progress of women in the educational and societal front. Yet, how untrue is this.
A 26-year-old from a Muslim country has graduated from one of most prominent schools. Fatima Al Qubaisi is the first Emirati woman to graduate from Harvard Law School, and she is a beacon of positivity and hope as she looks set to return home. She told Gulf News,
“It has been a tremendous experience to be part of the School’s graduating class during its 200th year, and I will be returning to the UAE with a vision and a set of ideas for a brighter UAE.”
Having recently graduated with a Master’s degree, her year at the prestigious Ivy League school has also left her passionate to promote pro bono legal work in her country.
“Just like our founding father, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God rest his soul, brought home a vision for a brighter, more modern UAE after his travels abroad, I want to bring home positive aspects from other cultures and countries,” she explained.
“One of the things I would like to establish, for example, is the concept of pro bono legal work for the poor.”
The graduate, who works as a senior legal associate at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia), has spent a year in the United States achieving her Master’s degree.
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Prior to this, she attained her bachelor’s degree in law and political science at the Paris-Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, and subsequently saw herself getting accepted at a number of top US schools for her Master’s, including the University of Berkeley, Cornell University and Georgetown University.
“It is true that educational attainment is important towards getting into any of these schools, but what matters is also what you bring to the graduating class,” Al Qubaisi said.
In her specific case, she said she had always been passionate about extra-curricular activities, and could speak four languages.
Having come this far, the young graduate has no plans of stopping. In a year’s time, she plans to take the New York Bar, an exam that will qualify her to practise law in New York, and confer international credibility to her qualifications.
“We have come a long way as a country since the UAE was first formed, but we still leave a lot of the technical work to expatriates.”
This is why I want to advance my knowledge and qualifications, and be at par with any international legal expert.”
She says her love for learning stems from the encouragement provided by the country’s leaders, and she wants to pass it on to other young Emiratis.
“I used to participate in a lot of cultural programmes when I was younger, and the various competitions organised by the Mother of the Nation, Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, who always pushed us to read more and keep learning. This truly helped instill a love for education within me,” Al Qubaisi explained.
“It was such a blessing to be able to study abroad and I could not have done it without this type of support and encouragement from our government.”
The graduate says she comes from a “family of overachievers”.
“My father is a self-made man who set up a successful financial institution about a decade ago. His sister, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, is the country’s first woman Speaker of the Federal National Council. At the same time, my uncle converted his hobby and became a professional racer, while his daughters are the first female Emirati go-kart racers,” she said.
Al Qubaisi also harbours a passion for women’s empowerment.
“I’ve had very strong role models, like Dr Amal, as well as a mentor of mine who is now the first female deputy director at the Adia, Noura Al Qubaisi. So I want to use my skills and knowledge to promote and realise even more empowerment for Emirati women,” she said.
Peers praise her
That Fatima has left a mark on her peers at Harvard is undeniable.
Sara Oh, a 24-year-old American who befriended her at Harvard, said Fatima’s compassion was unmissable.
“Although there is a lot of competition and high stress while studying …, Fatima always did what she could for others if they needed help, whatever the issue was.”
Petra Novotna, a lawyer linguist from the Czech Republic and another Harvard classmate, was impressed with Fatima’s congeniality.
“Fatima has such a big heart. She has constantly kept bringing our class together, be it for study time, celebration or simply a meal with great company.”