Post 9/11 women's initiative still going strongWritten by Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui
In the dark days that followed September 11, 2001, as the precarious relationship between Islam and the West rapidly deteriorated, a diverse group of Muslim women from the Ottawa area gathered to confront the new reality of greater suspicion, mistrust, and scrutiny.
Confronted by openly hostile chatter in the media and on the street, this disparate collection of women united both by their faith and a fierce pride in their shared identity as Canadians, contemplated their options and deliberately declined to accept defeat by shuffling off, heads bowed, into the shadowy realm of the lost.
Instead, Shano Bejkosalaj and Nazira Tareen had the courage to reach out in a spirit of conciliation, and to shape an idea that seemed audacious by virtue of the context in which it was conceived. Their vision ”“ which came into being a scant two weeks after the fall of the twin towers ”“ was christened the Ottawa Muslim Women's Organization. Its mission is to foster friendship within the heterogeneous Muslim community and, arguably more critically, to forge ties between Islam and greater society.
The women who rallied to meet the fresh challenges posed by radicalism represent the myriad faces of Islam around the globe, from Albania to the Indian subcontinent, and from Yemen to Nunavut. Many of these pioneers had already wrestled with dislocation, loneliness, and the isolation of being minority members of North American society.
Their success in shepherding their fledgling diaspora into a vibrant community meant that the shock of 9/11, though horrifying in its precedence was, upon reflection, an opportunity to shake off complacency and re-engage with fellow Canadians as both a moral and civic imperative.
A key task has been to articulate the simple truth ”“ that Islam is so much more than simplistic headlines that screech from the printed page or the shadowy spectre alluded to in brief sound bites.
Quranic edicts are clear ”“ compassion, kindness, and justice toward all must underpin societal institutions. By adopting these tenets and collaborating with civil society we show commitment to the ethos of this nation and can aspire to be truly Muslim.
Twelve years following its inception, the OMWO, a registered charity, can look back with humility on its achievements: comforting the homeless and the disenfranchised, the hungry and the afflicted, and the causes we championed, such as aid to the victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
The year's highlight is the annual Festival of Friendship dinner, scheduled for Sunday, April 28th at the St. Elias Banquet Centre, featuring Dr. Ingrid Mattson as this year's keynote speaker. Lucy van Oldenbarneveld of CBC returns to host while all funds will support the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health.
Please join the OMWO for an inspiring evening accompanied by great food, music, and good cheer, as we strive to know each other and become partners in pursuit of the common good.
Dr. Ferrukh Faruquiis a member of the Ottawa Muslim Women's Organization.
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