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Ghuroor, Muslim Women, and Shutting Down Grief

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Now is a moment when people can respond like the Muslims of New Zealand, and allow everyone to grieve these losses together, as this was a terror attack against all our fellow human beings. Or else it’s a chance to treat all Muslims worldwide as guilty, and to hold us all responsible for these horrific killings.

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When most people talk about American Muslims and the chilling events that took place in New York City, Washington, D.C., and in planes above the US on September 11, 2001, they’re looking at it through one lens: Did American Muslims condemn those attacks? Or did they not condemn the attacks?

Most recently, public figures posed this question in a different way about Rep. Ilhan Omar: is she reverent enough about what happened on 9/11, or is she insufficiently reverent?

For anyone who has met Rep. Omar, the ways in which she is being portrayed in the US media—as an angry, attacking firebrand—must be surprising. I have met Rep. Ilhan Omar several times. She is a petite woman and a calm public speaker who is not at all intimidating. She is good-natured, always smiling, dignified, and approachable. She frequently talks about how she thanks God that she came to the US, and that she recognizes the opportunities it has opened up for herself and her children. She has worked diligently within the system in order to improve things for Americans.

And yet public discourse has repeatedly looked down on Rep. Omar, who because of her hijab is the most visibly Muslim woman in the US Congress. It has painted her as an angry, hateful outsider who is attacking America.

But staying silent isn’t an option either. Ghazala Khan—the mother of US Army Captain Humayan Khan, who was killed in 2004 in the Iraq War—is another visibly Muslim woman who took the public stage at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Ghazala, who was a mother, a community volunteer, and worked in a fabric store, was derided by Donald Trump as a silent Muslim woman, unable to speak, oppressed and in need of liberation.
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Trumped into silence

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“Silence is the best way to answer a fool.”

fedwa wazwaz
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.

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