Copyright © 2003-2011, Aishah Schwartz. Permission granted to circulate among private individuals, groups, or in not-for-profit publications in full text and subject title. All other rights reserved.

August 14, 2006

Rallying the Muslim Community to Eradicate Complacency

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR NOW POSTING INSTALLMENTS OF THE JILL CARROLL STORY ONLINE! READ MORE HERE! The story of Jill Carroll serves as a reminder that it's time for a wake-up call By Christine Amina Benlafquih and Aishah Schwartz Naseebvibes - April 19, 2006 The March 30, 2006 release of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll from her Iraqi captors sparked an undertow of dialogue about why she was wearing an Islamic headscarf. Times have changed in areas like Rochester, NY, where in the 1970s and '80s Chris Turek remembers there being one Mexican boy and one African American girl in her parochial grammar school. It was big news when a black family moved across the street in the previously all-white neighborhood she grew up playing in. And in high school, Chris remembers a first encounter with the only Asian among 300+ students in her graduating class. Diversity remained elusive at the university in Pittsburgh that Chris attended after graduation, but by the time she migrated to the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. in 1990 to accept a position with an all-girls school, change was definitely in the air. Located in the Maryland suburb of Bethesda, the school attracted an incredibly diverse pool of students from the nation's mixing bowl capitol. Diversity had become a national goal, and its resounding anthem seemed to be generating global noise. Schools and universities participated in People of Color Conferences, job hunters and college applicants complained of reverse discrimination, and businesses and newspapers adopted language that demonstrated new sensitivity. But with the '90s behind us, and the introduction of Islam and its multi-faceted practices as a new stanza in diversity's song, it has become eminently clear that it's time for another wake-up call. With reports of rioting between Christians and Muslims in Egypt, the heinous torture and murder of a Moroccan Jew in France, the violent protests over slander of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and the daily killing between Shi'a and Sunni in Iraq - obviously it's time for a world summit of religious leaders to convene with the explicit purpose of developing a unilateral policy of understanding, sensitivity and tolerance based on both ethnic and religious levels. Intolerance Raises its Ugly Head The March 30, 2006 release of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll from her Iraqi captors sparked an undertow of dialogue about why she was wearing an Islamic headscarf. Broadcasters and journalists made note of it. Viewers and readers discussed it. And, of course, the Muslim community was curious about it. Interestingly, however, with all the observation and media coverage, only a handful presented public opinion that showed admiration for Jill Carroll's adopting the headscarf in the first place. Garnering far more attention was the prevailing opinion that she had worn the headscarf during her captivity merely out of fear, or as some suggested, due to the effects of Stockholm syndrome. Whatever the reason, it seemed abundantly clear that the majority of western observers and commentators wanted Jill Carroll to remove the allegedly oppressive and demeaning scarf from her head, post-haste. This is what Muslims need to take issue with. The Muslim community needs to rise to the occasion and help the world understand what they and Islam are all about. Despite headline making news of Afghani women throwing off their burqas, notwithstanding the stories of veiled Saudi women entering airplane bathrooms mid-flight and emerging in fashionable western attire - headscarves removed - the majority of Muslim women wearing hijab, and even the face veil, choose to do so of their own free will. A Call for Unification But wait - does the Muslim community have the attention of the naysayers? Is the ranting and raving in protest of the misrepresentations of Islam and its teachings falling on deaf ears? Could it be possible that Muslims need a wake-up call of their own? Heads shake on hearing repeated proclamations that hijab is misunderstood. Tongues get tied when Islam is presented in tandem with terrorism. And paralysis sets as television stations send reporters and camera crews to record for posterity the fact that Muslims seem to find it nearly impossible to maintain an organized demonstration without turning to violence - effectively erasing any progress made in asserting the message that Islam is peace. The time is long past due for Muslims on individual and united fronts to present and clarify the common misperceptions that exist about their religion. Members of the Muslim faith need clarity enough in their own minds to readily deflect negative attacks and offer responses to questions about Islam and its practices in a clear, comprehensive, and non-offensive manner. Crying foul every time western media depicts Islam and/or Muslims in a less than favorable light has become the proverbial band-aid for a wound gushing with internal complacency. Shame on the Muslim community for not stepping forward when opportunity presented itself as the hot-button issue of hijab resurfaced in news headlines through Jill Carroll's story. When Jill Carroll returned from Iraq, three months after her kidnapping, Muslim representatives and leaders should have taken time out from the media-weary coverage and relentless rehashing of the Danish cartoon controversy to snuff revived assertions that Muslim women are oppressed for freely choosing to wear a headscarf in compliance with the teachings of their religion. Regardless of whether or not mainstream media attempted to contact relevant representatives, the Muslim community has a core group of civil and legal rights organizations, leaders and activists that could have stepped forward when the opportunity was ripe - but as it happened, the activism boat left the dock with no passengers on board. Educating and Supporting the Masses Is it so difficult to see that the Muslim community is in need of a wake-up call? Until the distribution of knowledge and rhetoric needed to equip Imams, congregations, representatives and activists with a standard position on sensitive issues can be unilaterally agreed upon, mandated, and taught, Muslims and their religion will continue to be targets of negativity and intolerance. The risk of drowning in pools of multi-cultural chaos is eminent unless solid leadership can be established. When asked 12-years ago by a close non-Muslim friend why she had started to wear hijab after embracing Islam, Donna Catz of Detroit, Michigan, recalls her frustration in being unable to succinctly respond to her friend's pointed questions. "Why," Donna's friend asserted, "would a woman choose to wear a head scarf, and resign herself to being restrained from embracing her God-given sexuality?" Donna, too new in her Muslim shoes to defend a decision made in faith, was unable to satisfy her friend's thirst for a reasonable explanation addressing a mandate that was rendered through the revelation of the Qur'an over 1400 years ago. While Donna's friend relished the male attention she attracted in her fashionable wardrobe, neatly styled hair, and immaculately applied make-up, the opportunity was missed to convey that the headscarf is a part of a dress code mandated by modesty. It is what separates and liberates a woman from being seen as a mere sexual object, thereby rendering unto her the respect she not only deserves but is also entitled to under the directives of Islamic teachings. Hijab accentuates a woman's honor and self-worth by enabling those she encounters to value her as a person of intelligence and viability vs. merely formulating an opinion based on her sexuality. The modesty prescribed by the Islamic dress code as a whole also helps to preserve a moral society by nipping in the bud what is usually regarded as the first step in any illicit relationship - the look that attracts. Suppression of that first look should not be mistaken as something oppressive. It is important for Muslims to be able to convey that the hijab and overall general modest attire are not meant to repress a woman's sexuality, but are intended to elevate and sanctify it. The teaching that a Muslim woman's beauty and sexual allure are not for public viewing is mandated merely because it is believed that she should be treasured and protected. What can be seen in the home should not be seen in the streets. It takes dignity and self-confidence for a Muslim woman to don her hijab in societies that mock and misunderstand its merits. Reinforcing the teachings of the Islamic religion, and learning how to accept cultural differences within the Muslim community itself, from the level of those just entering the faith to those who are in leadership positions, serving as role models, media representatives, and activists, can help reverse the epidemic of negativity that misinformation, miscommunication and intolerance have propagated due to the unfortunate events of 9/11. It's time to make a difference on individual levels through the support, education and training of the Donna Catzs of the Muslim community and the re-education of its general members - those born and raised in Muslim families, including those that have migrated to the United States and bring with them crippling intolerance for one another's cultural differences, which becomes even more exacerbated as they form their own "cliques" in an attempt to survive in a new environment. Revitalizing the Muslim Community A Washington Post/ABC poll released in March 2006 recorded that nearly half of Americans admitted that they have a negative view of Islam. In another poll conducted for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, most people also said that they would feel better about Muslims and Islam if they felt women received better treatment. In many Muslim communities complacency has in essence granted its members an unspoken permission to sit back and wait for someone else to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. This is a dangerous misrepresentation that must be eradicated before Muslims can expect the rest of the world to see Islam in its true beauty. As ignorance and intolerance of the Islamic faith is replaced with understanding and acceptance, maybe incidents like the song and dance over whether Jill Carroll was forced to wear a headscarf during her captivity and whether she felt pressure to wear it afterwards will become synonymous with the past. Rather than sitting idly by while trying to conceptualize why it was that Jill Carroll wore a headscarf at one press conference and not at another, the Muslim community should commend her for respecting the religion and culture of the country in which she had spent the three years prior to her kidnapping striving to support and understand through her reporting. "Covering the war gives journalists an opportunity to recall the noblest tenets of their profession and fulfill the public service role of journalism," Jill Carroll stated when asked why she was willing to put her life on the line in Iraq. Imagine globally unified Muslim organizations, representatives, and individuals bridging cultural divides and dedicating themselves to standing up for the noblest tenets of their faith and to fulfill the public service role in propagating the true message of Islam. Jill Carroll's compassion and open-mindedness for a way of life other than her own is an example that should be exemplified and emulated. Let us all wake up and see what we can do to help make that happen. On the Net Muslimah Writers Alliance Naseebvibes Articles by Aishah Schwartz at Naseebvibes • LA Muslim Woman Murder Case Al-Jamarat: The Rest of the Story


  1. Those that insist on enforcing women’s dress codes which, in the most conservative examples, force women to go about in what could be viewed as ‘sacks’ with eye holes cut in them are not, in my view, protecting the honour of women. Rather they are dishonouring themselves by demonstrating that they don’t have the strength of character, sincerity of spirit or personal will to control their own basest instincts. The emotional (EQ) and spiritual (SQ) quotients of intelligence seem to be lacking in many. IQ is a ‘fluke’ and is not enough, the other two quotients are essential in large amounts to overcome personal stupidity or is it that they suffer from plain old ‘dumbness’ borne of a cultural indoctrination that looks to the past and pleads for the return of the ‘dark ages’!

  2. I'm not sure that burqah is meant to be protective...

  3. Salaam Aishah,
    Juste un petit mot pour dire que les musulmans du monde entier nous cassent quelque peu les roubignoles avec leurs Hijab. Ils pourraient foutre la paix aux femmes non? pourquoi un tel acharnement?
    Ma'salama ma soeur

  4. در اجرای طرح ارتقای امنيت اجتماعی که از ابتدای ارديبهشت‌‏ماه آغاز شده, برخورد با مالکان خودروهای حامل افراد بدحجاب در دستور کار پليس قرار گرفته است، بر اساس اين طرح خودروهای حامل فرد بدحجاب يا خودروهايی که زنان بدحجاب راننده آن هستند، توسط ماموران اجرای طرح امنيت اخلاقی يا ماموران راهنمايی و رانندگی توقيف و به پارکينگ منتقل می‌‏شوند.
    به گزارش خبرنگار ايلنا, نيروی انتظامی با اين توجيه که حضور فرد بدحجاب در خودرو از جرائم مشهود محسوب می‌‏شود، نسبت به برخورد با خودروهای حامل فرد بدحجاب اقدام کرده و راساً به توقيف خودروها می‌‏پردازد.

    ماموران زنا زاده پلیس راهنمایی رانندگی ایران بجای اینکه هزاران راننده که مانند حیوانات با سرعت غیر مجاز، عبور ممنوع و صدها مورد جرایم مشهود خطرناک را پیگیری کنند در برابر این جرایم سکوت می کنند و ماشین افرادی را که موهایشان پیداست توقیف می کنند!

    آی کیر خوک و خر و سنده خوک و خر تو کس حضرت زهرا بنت رسول الله چون ملایان می خواهند ایرانیان مثل این فاحشه قریش باشند.
    سنده سگ تو کس ننه و زن و دختر رسول الله به خاطر این قوانین مسخره و حیوانی قرآن.
    سنده شیطان تو حلق محمد قرآن شد.