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.

March 06, 2007

To Advocate or Abdicate: Muslimah Writers Alliance Stands in Defense of Islam

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

March 5, 2005

By Aishah Schwartz

I received an email this week from a friend who writes for a mainstream media publication in Miami, Florida. She was writing to tell me that sometime mid-March she would be interviewing the infamous Ayaan Hirsan Ali, and asked me what I 'thought' of the interview candidate. I had to admit the necessity of Googling the interviewee's name before offering my reply; and so I did.

Interestingly enough, on March 4, 2007, the New York Times published a book review, by Ian Buruma, on Ali's most recent Islam-bashing publication, 'Infidel'.

There is irrefutably enough evidence in Buruma's review to leave one with little doubt that the author/victim, former Muslim-turned-Atheist, was irrefutably left with a jaded view of the religion she was born into. It is here that we must be reminded that to turn away from the truth because of what others do or don't do based on misperceptions of what is Islamically right or wrong, is a decision that must not to be entered into lightly, as its ramifications far outlast the time spent in this life.

Instead of turning her back on Islam, might it not have conceivably been much more productive for Ali to have channeled her anger and resentment over the experiences of her tormented youth, into striving to rectify that which she found to be inherently wrong?

How many women could she have helped by advocating for reforms and education vs. merely helping herself as she embraced the romanticism of the West depicted in the Danielle Steel romance novels she purports to have based her dreams of salvation upon?

Ah, but then again, to be truly Muslim, one must want for others what they want for themselves.

However, I digress.

To continue, I reflectively embarked upon responding to my friend's request regarding her interview candidate and wrote the following:

My initial curiosity would be to learn what the intended focus of the article resulting from the interview would be. Depending on the editor's concept, and/or depending on what angle the writer might be going for if he/she were freelance, or if the writer were merely writing an opinion piece, any number of varying possibilities could be presented given the amount of pre-existing material on the interviewee.

I suppose focusing on a person with a background such as Ali's is just the kind of thing mainstream media would be more inclined to publish, particularly as it would be yet another slap in the face to the existing American Muslim community, given the fact that she has renounced Islam and is now seemingly dedicated to bashing the religion whenever opportunity presents itself.

Lets face it, we all know that generating negative buzz where Muslims are concerned is more likely to sell advertising space and newspapers, than publishing anything that might suggest members of the American Muslim community might be achieving, or striving to achieve, anything that could possibly be considered as having a positive impact on the community-at-large, and thereby - *shock and awe* - deeming them worthy of recognition.

In my experience as an American Muslim, I have learned that one of the things that Muslims, particularly immigrant Muslims, seem to appreciate about the United States, is that, if something is seen as being inherently wrong, i.e., in respect to civil or human rights, American's will embrace their Constitutional right to do something about it.

Now, what that tells me is, that Muslims are not unaware that there are problems within their communities, particularly where it regards interpretation of the religion's teachings. However, the governments of many countries that we see Muslims immigrating to American from, do not allow such liberties as freedom of speech, press, or to peacefully demonstrate.

On the contrary, many foreign governments work harder to suppress attempts toward positive change, and either refuse, balk, or flat-out have to be lobbied into, addressing humanitarian issues; the result being akin to a feeding frenzy for mainstream media to continue delivering the spin that Muslims are nothing short of barbaric.

As can be seen from the chronological log of media coverage pertaining to the travesty of justice in the forced divorce case of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, news of which the Saudi Gazette reports has also reached this years Economic Forum in Jeddah, and from the hundreds of signatures and correlating comments memorialized through the Say 'No' to Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms online petition drive sponsored by Muslimah Writers Alliance, the true voice of the Muslim community is being heard.

The Muslim community does recognize when things have gone wrong, and is willing to call out the wrong-doers.

And finally, we can be unified for the sake of eradicating injustice - when given a platform. A platform, as might be gleaned from the forced divorce case news log, that U.S. mainstream media has notably abstained from granting us.

The forced divorce of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani was the initial catalyst for the online petition drive that strives to reunite the couple, however, it goes on to also address the root of the problem - the issues that created the fiasco to start with - guardianship, tribalism, and misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam.

I spoke with Nimah Nawwab Saudi poet, activist and Young Global Leader, on the subject, and she stated, "The appellate court upheld forced divorce of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani has not only deeply traumatized this family, but it is creating a domino effect with devastating social ramifications."

The couple's attorney, Abdul-Rahman Al-Lahem, who was recently nominated by the UK's Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards committee for this year's Bindman's Law and Campaigns Award, has petitioned Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, requesting that the Al-Timani case be forwarded to the Kingdom's High Court, the only recourse left to the couple.

Commenting further, Nawaab stated, "The Al-Timani case brings to the forefront the problem of the evolving abuse of guardianship (wali al-amr). An abuse affecting the rights of women throughout the Kingdom in marriage, travel, education and work."

"It has been reduced to nothing more than a means of control, whereby even distant male relatives to whom guardianship rights have trickled down due to family circumstance, unwittingly places the fate of women in the hands of men who do not have their best interests at heart," Nawwab concluded.

Long after the case of Fatima and Mansour Al-Timani is settled, for better or worse, and it may very well be for the worse, as eluded to recently in the Saudi Gazette, the online petition drive will continue to accrue signatures until the necessary reforms pertaining to guardianship over women are addressed - with or without mainstream media support.

The President of the Human Rights First Society of Saudi Arabia recently invited me to join the organization's membership. I accepted. The simple fact that this organization has 3,285 members inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone, speaks volumes in-and-of itself.

The global Muslim community does recognize that all is not right with the world. And we are trying to present a united front in an effort to make a difference; one member, one voice, one signature at a time.

The Say 'No' to Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms online petition drive has, to date, accumulated nearly 1,000 signatures representing the collective voices of Muslims from over 38 countries, 56 non-U.S. cities, 21 U.S. States, and 45 U.S. Cities.

As the Muslimah Writers Alliance petition and Burmura's book review emphasize, the experiences of Fatima Al-Timani and Ayaan Hirsan Ali - have nothing to do with the true teachings of Islam.

Aishah Schwartz is a freelance writer and director of Muslimah Writers Alliance, Washington, D.C.


Article References:

Against Submission, by Ian Buruma

Muslimah Writers Alliance Forced Divorce Case Chronological Media Log

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Forced Divorce Case, Muslimah Writers Alliance

Forced Divorce Now a Forum Issue, by Sabri Jawhar, The Saudi Gazette

Nimah Ismail Nawwab

Saudi Attorney in Al-Timani Forced Divorce Case Nominated to Receive Award

Say 'No' to Forced Divorce - 'Yes' to Reforms

Online Petition to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz

Copyright © 2007

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