|Republican Women's Anti-Hijab Starts Tense, Ends with Seeds of Dialogue|
|Community News - Community News|
|Written by Hena Zuberi, Muslim Link Staff|
|Friday, 15 March 2013 23:58|
Hate is a strong word and easy to incite. A cafeteria full of men and women, mostly white, sat in the elementary school in Fairfax Station, Virginia. They could have been your librarian, the professor at the community college, or the police officer in your local precinct. The crowd dotted by occasional women in a headscarf, many of them white, as well.
The general theme of her speech was that Americans must wake up and confront the threat of Islam in every corner of society.
There was no room for discourse. "She fulfilled every negative expectation and went beyond it," says Amen-Bryan.
Despite her misinformed speech and despite the fact that she did not give the audience a chance to discuss or ask questions, the polarized room merged and each one of the 25 to 30 Muslim women had 2-3 audience members surrounding her, questioning and discussing.
Reis did bring up a few points that many Muslims do not deny. There is injustice perpetrated against women in the name of Islam by people who do not know the religion. But, missing from the speech was context. In America, a woman is abused by her domestic partner once every few minutes but no parallels were made. Even if the target was 'political' Islam, the brush strokes Reis painted were so broad that the whole faith was smirched. Many Muslim women and men are working in their communities on issues such as domestic violence and abuse, just as Christians work to on issues such as sex trafficking. They could be allies in the importance of faith, family, and faithbased morality to address issues facing American society.
One of the examples Reis used to denigrate Shariah was the case in New Jersy in 2010. A Muslim woman was not granted a restraining order by a judge. He ruled that the ex-husband did not have criminal intent of spousal rape according to his culture. "Why did Reis not talk about the US judicial system and the criminality of the judge and why are you using that to prove extremism in our religion?" asked Amen-Bryan. "I could hear the audience moaning, not at the excesses of the judge but at the Muslim religion and culture."
Last October, Karamah a Muslim women's lawyers organization used the same case in a presentation for the need for Muslim women to have lawyers who are knowledgeable about the gender-equitable principles of Islam and can represent Muslim women.
Since there is no understanding of Shariah when it is banned to give women rights, they may suffer as we can see in the case in Kansas were a woman was denied compensation from her estranged husband because the court has ruled that no foreign law will be recognized.
"I am giving a warning to all listeners, I am sure you can find faults in it, I am not perfect." Her speech ended to a standing ovation by the women and men of the RWC. She purposefully ignored rampant sexual abuse elsewhere, ie. the US military where 1/3rd of women have been raped and 90% have faced sexual abuse or the Catholic clergy pedophilia and sex abuse epidemic. There was no room for discourse. "She fulfilled every negative expectation and went beyond it," says Amen-Bryan.
Dr. Ileana Johnson, a former economics professor who escaped communism in Romania and author of “U.N. Agenda 21: Environmental Piracy” was the other speaker at the event. She spoke of green schemes and the insidious nature of Agenda 21, mixing common concerns for private property rights with some conspiracy theories. She succeeded in scaring everyone in the audience, did not take too well to their questions and did not tolerate any debate. "Can't you be Republican without been looneytunes?" whispered a young Republican woman sitting in the back on a cafeteria bench, after listening to the speeches.
This is why many conservatives and independents have left the Republican party. Before these last two election Republicans were the go to party. When did fear of Islam become a pillar of the Republican party? "Extremist voices have taken over the Republican party," said Amen-Bryan," I liked Mitt Romney's policies after I heard him speak, I even wrote to him but could not vote for him because of the attacks coming from his party." It is also time that the Muslim community's interfaith partners need to step up to this hatemongering and owe up to the friendships.
" I don't anything about the Quran," said one Christian woman after the event as she apologized to Muslim women, "I don't know, what I don't know." This indicates that the Muslim community in DMV has work to do.
"Where are your men?" asked a man who identified himself as a ex-cop after he yelled four-letter expletives at some vocal Muslim sisters. Amen-Bryan does not think that Muslim men needed to be there. "Any Muslim woman that you speak will tell you that the hijab is a personal and intimate issue for her and we can take care of ourselves."
For a while the atmosphere was very tense. When a small group of Muslim women started distributing pamphlets by the Southern Poverty Law Center about ACT! for America being designated a hate group, one of the organizers shouted "Southern Poverty Law Center is a communist organization."
Ramla Osman and Asma Nur, students from Springfield High School also came expecting to hear from an expert and be able to express their opinions. They did not doubt that Ries wants to protect her country, and this was evident is her passion, but her tunnel vision was so narrow that there was no attempt to have a balanced presentation, even after wide media publicity.
Despite her misinformed speech and despite the fact that she did not give the audience a chance to discuss or ask questions, the polarized room merged and each one of the 25 to 30 Muslim women had 2-3 audience members surrounding her, questioning and discussing. "I expected the audience to be fairly distant and not friendly, but I was surprised; I met some well spoken and well educated women, they do not need to buy into this garbage," said Amen-Bryan.
Emily Bresson attended the event with her daughter Ella who is a student in the world religions' class at Robinson High. She wondered why a conservative, Christian woman was speaking about women in Islam. Another attendee, (name withheld for the fear of backlash) was a professor at the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), she said she had many Muslim students who were her main source of her views on Islam. "My students all get along," she said.
Many of the Muslim women who attended were born and raised in the US, some whose ancestors have fought in the Revolutionary Wars. "I consider my rights as precious as an American; my brother is a veteran," says Amen-Bryant. " Alice Butler-Short, the President of the RWC club is an Irish immigrant, she is also listed on the ACT! for America's website as a chapter leader for North Virginia. Muslim women met with Butler-Short, who said that she had spent years in Somalia as she hugged a Somali American Muslim woman.
"There is a silver thread, we have had several long telephone conversations and emails with the Republican women."Inspired by the wisdom of the prophets who dialogued with their opponents, Amen-Bryan says she and some of the other attendees are prepared to put in the time-consuming work of establishing trust and opening dialogue, including with Reis. "I have had lengthy phone conversation and exchanged e-mails with the RWC; we have planted the seeds."