Muslim Women’s Alliance-Celebration of the Muslim Woman

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With Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen

 

Each year the Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA) luncheon hails the we’re almost there emergence of springtime with a sold-out gathering of 500 diverse Muslim women in Chicagoland. It attracts women from daughters to grandmothers and from a multitude of ethnicities, which is characteristic of Islam. They come to get reconnected after winter’s cabin fever, network, and celebrate accomplishments of their own cadre.

This year featured three award winners whose contributions to society were made public. Dorothy Habibah Collins, Founder of Sisters Nurturing Sisters, a non-profit that offers transitional and permanent housing on Chicago’s South-side, described her own start with sincerely wanting to help a woman and child who only earned about $300 each month and were having to set up their sleeping arrangements in a public park. She felt awful to not be able to do more than offer encouragement, but it galvanized her desire to do more for other women who she would help through her organization.

Another winner was Um Serage Rahima, the loving Prinicipal of Al-Siddiq Weekend School for over 20 years. She warmly related the gratification she feels when former students now enroll their children in her school, and she teaches classes in mosques and homes all around the city and suburbs. A life-long learning of several topics in Islam, she is certified in Quranic recitation and is a resource for many.

The final recipient of the MWA award is Joohi Tahir, who has had a successful corporate career in sales and marketing for over 20 years and is the mother of a 13 year old daughter with Autism. In her story, she related the challenges faced by many in the Muslim community, and she recently went into the non-profit world as Executive Director of Muslims Understanding & Helping Special Education Needs (MUHSEN). Her organization seeks to create awareness, build programs, and provide much needed services across America that will strive for inclusion of all members of the Muslim community. Their first fundraising banquet is this Saturday, March 7th in Garland, Texas.

MWA awards scholarships, provides events every month, and is actively seeking volunteers to empower, support, engage, and build leadership and community service by women. Embodying the spirit of a woman who humbly sought to do something in the interest of social justice, the keynote speaker was Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, she is a Brooklyn-based activist who is gaining much publicity nationally for her accomplishments.

Sarsour spoke of the day she realized that she, a mother of teenagers, could make an impact. She simply helped someone for whom she felt she should offer assistance, and the effect raised her consciousness to learn that simply doing a little something can have a major boost to help someone who could not help themselves.

During the luncheon, the attendees were reminded of the many names and headlines from this past year that have born introspection about injustice and feelings of helplessness. Sarsour struck a note with the crowd when she related that upon learning of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, she hopped a plane to see for herself what was reality. She shared several observations, but among them was one that again jolted a revelation. When the protesters were bombarded by police with tear gas, Palestinians in Gaza were Tweeting about how to deal with tear gas attacks. The connection and desire felt from a subjugated population who sought to help Americans was astounding. It was from this that Sarsour cited that no matter how small we think we are, we must speak up. Together, we are a significant power that can bring positive results.

She reminded the audience that politicians are supposed to work FOR THE PEOPLE. The People have a responsibility to engage in dialogue and qualify their representation. That is America. We have to speak up to pave a better future for our children. We have to engage and contribute more to our communities. Give a little, for you never know how great that can be for someone today.

It’s About Love & Gifts

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Appreciation notes from my students were gratifying aspects of my career as a teacher. If only I’d kept more of them. I found this one as I was cleaning out a dresser, and I love it when former students—now adults—care to “friend” me on Facebook and when I see them succeed various milestones of life.

After all, I always felt that each of them was my kid, and even though the boys and girls are now fully adult men and women, some married and some with children, I remember just about all of them. I guess that I must have done something right.

As we approach the start of another school year, I’m missing the classroom a bit, and have genuine appreciation for the gifts given to me. I am a teacher.

For this reason, if the reader will permit, I want to share and highly recommend a book I received from my daughter, who was gifted with it by her cousin prior to her two month journey to teach, tour, and connect with family in Turkey and Jordan.

Reclaim Your HeartReclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed taught me that all we tend to put in our heart—our relationships, the value of our intellect, looks, health, wealth, position, and possessions—are actually gifts. Such gifts should be kept in the hand though, not the heart. For the heart is only for the Creator, and gifts bestowed to us are eventually taken away.

If such valuable gifts reside in the heart, they become objects of coveting and obsession; and when removed, they create such deep pain from their loss. We miscalculate that they were given by The One, and we may not realize that the Creator gives what is best for us. Sometimes the revocation of a gift is meant to remind and draw us back to The One.

My daughter, despondent over the genocide in Gaza, asked her aunt if such a horrific situation—one of the most densely populated, essentially trapped and defenseless populations being killed like ‘fish in a bucket’—if it depressed her? Her wise aunt stated, “Allah created mankind to be forgetful, and it is a gift.” Those of us who have lost mothers never forget the strength of our bond; yet, we are able to function because we are able to forget, accept, and continue.

In Islam, families mourn for three days; then they are expected to accept God’s Will and people move on. The loss of a spouse is certainly more disruptive, and two months is acceptable before re-engaging with the world. The point is to realize that we must accept; and we trust that The One gives what is best, no matter how seemingly tragic on the surface.

Given the circumstances in Gaza, I surmise that the haters and malevolent perpetrators will determine their eternal justice. Yet how humanity can generally ignore or misconstrue the situation, in spite of obvious media manipulation, I cannot fathom.

The Palestinians have transcended this world; their faith so solid as to recognize that this existence is fleeting, and so they greet their fate with resolve and capitulation to The One who can best serve justice. When people no longer fear death and accept it, they cannot be vanquished.

Our gifts, our blessings are to be cherished and preserved, but keep them in hand, not in the heart. Hope for their return, and better, as destiny proceeds.

We are members of the human family, and those who remember, care, serve, and educate others will find themselves in rank just under the prophets.

Be glad, patient, and share.