|Masajid Still Have a Long Way to Go|
|National News - Opinions|
|Written by Aishah Schwartz|
|Saturday, 24 June 2006 09:41|
Masajid Still Have a Long Way to Go
I am writing in response to an article in the June 9, 2006 issue of The Muslim Link, "Dar Al-Hijrah Hears Sisters Concerns" .
I embraced Islam on April 19, 2002 after a khutbah at The World Bank in Washington, D.C. A short time later I endeavored to become involved in the local Muslim community through various volunteer efforts from which I retain many nice memories. However, when I read the June 9 article, I was disheartened to be reminded that four years later internal discord, dissatisfaction, and countless unresolved and neglected issues between the female population of our local masajid and management remains largely unaddressed.
By the end of the first year as a new Muslim, despite my best efforts to integrate myself into the community, I still felt like an outsider. It then occurred to me that there might also be other new Muslim women/sisters facing struggles as American reverts trying to integrate into masjid communities formed, run, and attended by a largely immigrant population. With that thought in mind, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala put it on my heart to try and make a difference - and on May 27, 2003 I formed and launched through the internet, a new Muslimah support group known as Sisters4Dawah or "S4D" (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sisters4Dawah). Interestingly enough, exactly one year from the date that the S4D support group was formed, I found myself in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, making my first Umrah. Al-hamdulillah.
Three years later, by the Grace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, the encouragement, nurturing, and support offered and shared amongst the internationally comprised membership of over 230 sisters, thrives today. The group has been a continuous source of blessing not just in my life, but in the lives of all who have found their way to the S4D sisterhood - proving that despite our nationalities, cultural differences, and localities - if our focus is on the true teachings of Islam and pleasing Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in all we say and do, we can co-exist in harmony.
However, while it is true that many new Muslim's find support and information via the internet, it is truly no replacement for what each sister/revert hopes to find in their own home towns and cities.
A significant number of S4D members happen to reside in the VA/MD/DC metropolitan area, and sadly, many have shared their own masjid "horror" stories. One sister wrote, "I'm a revert who has literally gone through hell since becoming a Muslim. The hardest part for me is the social isolation."
Another sister wrote, "It really is a problem when reverts do not feel comfortable in the community. Growing up Muslim I saw this happen too many times to count. Instead of reaching out to reverts with the compassion that Islam teaches us, they are bombarded with what they can't or have to do. Don't get me wrong, they should be educated on the halal and haram, but they should be schooled on the essence of Islam as well. Also, reverts find it troubling when Muslims do not return the greeting of "Assalamu Alaikum", that they have learned contains both a blessing and reward."
These sisters (and all reverts) need a place to call their Islamic "home" - and instead of having to answer the concerns of new Muslim women sharing their negative experiences with the blanket statement, "Don't pay attention to what Muslim's do," (offered to me in the early days by a concerned Muslim friend), I would like, insha'Allah, to one day be able to say that new Muslims, particularly women, need not fear walking into their local masjids.
To the credit of many local masajid, an abundance of time and energy is put into promotion of dialogue between Muslims and Christians. What I would like to suggest is that we put some of the same quality time and effort into generating articles and dialogue between Muslims themselves, and to perhaps outline some guidelines for training volunteer teams that can act as mentors to new Muslims.
It is my sincere hope and dua that masajid board and executive committees will unite in striving with the utmost sincerity and best of intentions to give the needs and concerns of women/sisters, particularly those newly entering Islam, the highest priority so that we can reverse the trend of new Muslim's being turned off and disillusioned by their first masjid experiences.
May those who have been offended or harmed in the past can find comfort and/or reassurance in knowing that their suffering was not in vain and that, insha'Allah, they will be compensated in the hereafter.
Farkhunda Ali's June 9 story ended with the statement, "Everyone has to get service at the masjid" - as an editor I would have rephrased the closing to say, "Everyone is entitled to service at the masjid."
Thanks to The Muslim Link for publishing the June 9 article redirecting awareness to the needs of new Muslim's and sisters/women in our masjids.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala guide us all. Amin.
Founder & Director
Muslimah Writers Alliance