Trumped into silence
By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota
“Silence is the best way to answer a fool.”
After the Democratic National Convention (DNC, Donald Trump said the reason Ghazala Khan didn’t speak at the DNC is because she wasn’t allowed to. He played on stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed and voiceless.
Some women will respond through a twitter campaign to demonstrate that we don’t need anyone’s permission to speak.
Today, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (EDT), Monday, August 1, using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow, some Muslim women will share a bit about who they are and how they speak out.
I respect these women’s right to express their outrage in this manner. However, I disagree with this approach. Why? As a direct speaker, I have faced harsh criticism for my not speaking in a way that adheres to a stereotypical view of a Muslim woman by Muslims and non-Muslims, both men and women alike. Hence, boxing women to speak in one way to appease a bigot or a group of bigots plays right into their game. A show of false bravado is not necessary. Rather, what is needed is an educational lesson on silence.
As someone who is a direct speaker, I heard a woman, Ghazala Khan’s message on stage very loud and clear. A wise woman who stood dignified and respectfully – expressed her pain and suffering at Trump with her silence. She was not silenced by her husband, but, too stunned by Trump’s stupidity to even respond. She was genuine, open and authentic. She was being herself, not putting on an act of false bravado like Trump has been doing since the Presidential campaign.
Silence is a language that only fools cannot comprehend. Below, are quotes on the beauty of silence in the face of fools and their foolishness.
“Silence and smile are two powerful tools. Smile is the way to solve many problems and silence is the way to avoid many problems.”
“Silence is a fence around wisdom.”-German Proverb
“The tree of silence bears the fruit of peace.” – Arabian Proverb
“Silence is as deep as eternity; speech, shallow as time.”
“Silence is a true friend who never betrays.”-Confucius
“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”-Elbert Hubbard
“There are times when silence is the best way to yell at the top of your voice.”
“Laughter will always be the best medicine, silence will always be the best revenge, and love will always be all you need.”
“If talk is cheap, then being silent is expensive. And many people it seems, can’t afford to buy into it.”
“Sometimes, the most meaningful things are found through silence.”
“Well timed silence has more eloquence than speech.”
“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”
“True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.”
“Men of few words are the best men.”-William Shakespeare
“Silence is sometimes the best answer.”- Dalai Lama
“Some hearts understand each other even in silence.”
“Open your mouth only if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence.”
“Silence is the source of great strength.”
“One of the most effective ways to learn about oneself is by taking seriously the cultures of others. It forces you to pay attention to those details of life which differentiate them from you.”
― Edward T. Hall, The Silent Language
Having shared that and recognizing that at times we do need to speak out, not to impress or appease bigots but to share our ideas and thoughts to benefit and communicate with each other. Yet, communication has value when both parties are open. When there is a lack of openness to grow and understand, as we witnessed – Trump did not understand her silence or her husband, Khizr Khan’s words.
Dealing with fools and their foolishness is a difficult task.
Jesus, the son of Mary, upon him peace and blessings, said, “God has given me the power to give life to the dead, sight to the blind, sound to the deaf; but He did not give me the power to heal the fool of his foolishness.”
The other stereotype that circulates around Muslim women is that they are all oppressed. Some definitely are and most are not, and some are oppressors. They are human beings, like men.
Having said this, there is no shame in being oppressed. Rather, those that will be shamed in this life or the hereafter are the oppressors. The best of creation or people that have transformed and benefitted the world were those who faced various forms of oppression and persecution and grew out of these experiences to be shining lights for humanity. We all have names in our mind.
Jesus, upon him peace, was persecuted and oppressed. So were all the Prophets.
We need to stop boxing women into a stereotypical personality and instead accept women have various personalities and ways of expressing themselves – and respect them for being themselves, genuine and authentic.
Ghazala Khan, I heard you loud and clear and respect you for being yourself. No bravado necessary. Thank you for your expression of silence to an apparent fool.
Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. She was the chair for the Interfaith Relations at Islamic Center of Minnesota. She has completed training in restorative justice at the University’s Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking. She was a 2008-2009 policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
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