One of my favourite sessions at the RIS Convention last year was with Tayyiba Taylor, and it helped me understand more about how to navigate the conference. It’s such a huge event that it’s easy to get lost in all the different sessions, but having done it once I think from all the different speakers, there are a few sessions, a few gems that really stay with you. This was one of those sessions. In particular her discussion that the hijab does not alienate and disconnect you from society, but is a passport into different realms of action was something I had a lot of interesting conversations about afterwards. I won’t be at the Convention this year, but look forward to hearing about the lovely gems at this year’s event!
Misogyny has been woven into the practice of Islam and been passed off as religion. An example: sometimes when we possess modesty of dress, speech and behaviour, this is used to bar us from public space, when this should be our passport. This isn’t a discussion about the hijab or not the hijab, I’m saying that if a woman believes she needs to cover, then covering is not something she would necessarily do at home. Modesty in dress is about being in the public sphere, and about being active in all kinds of fields, about being an agent for social change. But people misunderstand and act as though their misperceptions are fact. Also, we need to be very cognizant of language are using. For example, humanity, not mankind, is more inclusive and allows a place for women.
About Shura: We used to be spectators to our own destiny and it still happens, where women are not given impact in decisions that affect them directly.. for example in the creation of masjids, but this is changing as we realise that the benefits of working together are far greater than anything that could be created by one gender body. In Atlanta, an Imam stepped down because he felt it was time for new leadership, and the shura council of the masjid (which was made up of men and women) met and selected a 20 year old man. So this was was an action that really showed their belief in the power of youth. Sometimes leadership of community doesn’t realise often that it is marginalizing women or disenfranchising youth, but we need to create space for people to become agents of social change. We need places that create synergy, harmony, communication.
You will hear will hear many things and be jazzed up over the course of this weekend. My challenge to you: what concrete change will you make in order to create positive change in your life and in your community? Our ibadah and muhamalat, (acts of worship and social affairs) have to be in sync to be believing men and women. If we’re building towering masjids and they are empty, or in another scenario they are full but are still alienating lots of people, that is a problem. From the topic of halal meat and masjids and islamic schools we have to think beyond and think more. These topics made sense as the discourse once, but we’ve gone from no masjids, to many many spaces. Now we need hospitals and universities. We need Muslim media outlets. So often we complain about portrayals of Muslims, but we need to take things seriously, and contribute and support these things. So again, beyond enthusiasm, what will you take away this weekend? What can you do to plant seeds for next generation?
Not just about our own individual deeds, it’s about improving our environment and creating a future environment. How are we using our place on world stage? Are we just about pontification? I talk to a lot of people about Muslim women and instead of joy, find myself deconstructing the idea of Muslim men being aggressive and the idea of women being oppressed a lot. So we need to be examples of light, We need to walk with sakina (tranquility) and salaam (peace), and have a portable peace that is not contingent on anything, not contingent on the weather, who you are with or by anything else. We need to have a peace that just cannot be tampered with because you are connected to Allah and know that you are a soul on the way back to God, and you know when you meet others that they are on the journey back to God too.
When you give your salaams and see them as someone on their journey back, then that determines how we are, how we look at each other, and how we look at ourselves. Again I’m challenging you: commit to do something before the end of the year. Don’t leave just with a sense of enthusiasm, leave with sense of responsibility and a sense of being an agent of change. We need to be clear about who we are, what our goals are, we are reading a book that tells us that if the mountains had received it, they would have been rent asunder. Think how much power we have, use that to become that soul in sakina who is on a journey back to God.
~Tayyiba Taylor, Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention 2009/2010, Session 9, Dec 26th 2009.