Thursday, November 16, 2006

Empowering Muslim Women; A New Global Movement?

The following is billed as an effort to "Launch a Global Movemet to Empower Muslim Women. It is interesting to see that female Muslim leaders with very varied points of view will be represented in this effort, at least as it starts off. I have seen at least one such effort here in the SF Bay Area (on a more focused topic) evolve and ... but let's not pre-judge this effort.

A last note is that while the headline says "empowering Muslim Women", the formal name, again, refers to it as an "Islamic Initiative". Hmmm....meaning what? That this will be Shariah-compliant? Whose interpretation of Shariah? Folks might be familiar with my thoughts on this; if our Muslim brothers and sisters are going to repeatedly identify their efforts as "Islamic", then why the complaint when the "other" side of the Muslim world is also identified as "Islamic Terrorism", or "Islamofascism"? But we digress. Let's see how this effort evolves:
DATE: November 8, 2006

Daisy Khan, Executive Director, ASMA Society New York
P: 212 362 2242 direct; e-mail:
Faisal Shah, Press Coordinator, ASMA Society New York
P: 917-492-8690; e-mail:
Web Page is here.
PDF is here.


Manhattan, New York - Over one hundred Muslim women religious leaders, human rights activists, scholars and artists from around the world will meet in New York City on November 17th to 19th to launch WISE: The Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity to empower Muslim women to play a greater role in their societies worldwide.

Top leaders will attend, including Baroness Uddin, the first Muslim woman to enter the British House of Lords, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General Dr. Nafis Sadik, Saudi municipal candidate Fatin Bundagji, Malaysian Islamic Feminist Zainah Anwar, author of Standing Alone in Mecca Asra Nomani," Afghani Presidential candidate Dr. Massouda Jalal, Nigerian advocate in the Amina Lawal stoning case Nogi Imoukhuede, President of Islamic Society of North America Ingrid Mattson, Dubai' Comic Writer Rima Khoreibi who introduced the Muslim World to their first female heroin and Pakistan's Mukhtaran Mai, author of the much anticipated In the Name of
Honor: A Memoir.

"This is a historical and critical event in the history of Islam," said Daisy Khan, Executive Director of The American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), the chief organizer of the event. "WISE will provide a much needed platform for diverse Muslim women to discuss global Muslim
women's issues, assert our rights through the use of and in accordance with Islamic law, and build a coherent movement that empowers and connects Muslim women everywhere."

On the agenda is the formation of an International Shura Council of Muslim Women. A Shura Council is an advisory council that interprets Islamic law for the political and religious leaders in its region of authority. Also under discussion will be the creation of a global fund to provide scholarships for Muslim women to be educated in Islamic jurisprudence thereby qualifying them to serve on the Shura Council of Women.

The leaders will discuss the major obstacles facing Muslim women and create strategies to address them. They will discuss how to increase women's religious & political leadership via faith fueled activism, challenging local customs that impinge on women's rights and develop effective methods
to change negative perceptions about muslim women.

A selection of non-Muslim women faith leaders will also participate in the WISE meetings as supportive partners. They include Sister Joan Chittister, prolific advocate of women's rights and American Benedictine nun, Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, leader in the ecumenical interfaith movement in the U.S., Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt, founder of Sister Fund and author of Faith &
Feminism: A Holy Alliance , and Devorah Zlochower, director and instructor of Talmud and halakha, Drisha Institute.

The events of WISE will also feature the theater debut of 7WOMEN, 7HEAVENS, Portraits of Muslim Women, a play that juxtaposes stories of seven Muslim women in abrasive, funny, and soothing dialogue with themselves around personal struggles with faith, community, and relationships. The world premier will take place Saturday, November 18 at 8:30pm during the WISE
conference and is open to the public.

Sponsor: The ASMA Society, a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 founded in 1997 in New York City, is an Islamic cultural and educational organization dedicated to fostering an American-Muslim identity and building bridges between American Muslims and the American public. ASMA's philosophical objective is to strengthen a culturally American expression of Islam based on tolerance and
on cultural and religious harmony and to foster an environment in which Muslims can thrive within a pluralistic society.

Project Collaboration: ASMA Society will collaborate with Cordoba Initiative, a not for profit 501(c) 3 founded in 2004 in Aspen, Colorado. Cordoba Initiative is multi-faith initiative whose objective is to heal the relationship between the Islamic world and America/the West

WISE has been supported by The Ford Foundation, Sister Fund, Henry Luce Foundation, Danny Kaye & Sylvia Kaye Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, William & Mary Greve Foundation, Marshall Family Fund.

Venue: The Westin New York at Times Square: 270 West 43rd street, NYC, NY 10036

Schedule: Start on November 17th Fri at 5pm and end on November 19th Sun at 5pm
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Pamela K Taylor said...

I totally agree with the critique of "Islamic." I'm sure part of that word choice had to do with it fitting into the very neat moniker WISE, but it still should have been Muslim.

It will be interesting indeed to see how it evolves. I'm glad a lot of progressive women have been invited to join in. I'm wondering if Shia' and other minority Muslim groups have been invited as well, or if it is all Sunni.

I was disappointed, though, to see that they were thinking of a shurah council of six. SIX! I would have aimed for twice that number.


Anonymous said...

Farhat Hashmi is not invited? How come?

Rafi Aamer

iFaqeer said...

Pamela, look forward to hearing about the proceedings.

Rafi, I dont' think that's settled yet...the list seemed partial (as in incomplete...sheesh; what were you thinking?); Pamela (who is co-chair of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America) was not listed, for example.

Anonymous said...

It's happening a few blocks away from my office. I don't know if the menfolk are allowed to attend or need to have an invitation. I will find out and if possible, drop in for a session or two.


Anonymous said...

And if men are not allowed, well, there's always the burka option :)