- Launching of the Muslima (Muslim Voices), May 18, 2013 at Presidio, The Open Square, Futures Without Violence, 100 Montgomery Street in the Presidio of San Francisco
- Reclaiming Our Faith: Negotiating Modern Theological Fault Line, May 25, 2013, Zaytuna College Conference & Benefit Dinner, Hilton Convention Center, Anaheim, CA.
The two major events in California, USA have brought Al Qalam Institute to the international community bringing the voices of the Muslims in Mindanao. Despite the years of uprising for right to self determination and series of rebellion of the Muslims in Mindanao, very few people around the world know that there are Muslim minorities in this part of Southern Philippines. These conflicts have been deeply rooted of centuries of discrimination and social injustice that started since the time of the Spanish rule in 15th century.
Al Qalam Institute was able to participate in the said events through the generous help our peace advocates and strong partner institutions.
I – Muslima (Muslim Voices)
“Muslima, a new online exhibition launched earlier this spring, aims to answer that question by providing a platform for Muslim women across the globe to share their voices through curated art, film, writing and audio clips.
Produced by the International Museum of Women (IMOW), an online museum founded in San Francisco, Muslima hopes to shatter the mostly negative generalisations that surround Muslim women and instead celebrate their diversity.”
Muslima(meaning a female believer) is the culmination of several months work. Ali has worked tirelessly behind the website to interview influential Muslim women, such as the Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Shirin Ebadi; the US state department’s special representative to Muslim communities Farah Pandith; and Zainah Anwar, the founder of the women’s rights group Sisters in Islam in Malaysia (all the interviews appear on the exhibition’s website).
In the online art gallery, the Yemeni photographer Boushra Almutawakel showcases her controversial Hijab series, in which she photographs a mother and daughter and slowly covers them up until they are shrouded in black. The Arab-American painter Helen Zughaib’s pop art paintings portray a hijabi Wonder Woman while a film by the Iranian multimedia artist Haleh Jamali shows a woman in a black sheet dancing abstract shapes to the sound of silence. Each artist is different, but every piece of work is powerful.
IMOW partnered with three international museums to help select many of the artists featured, including the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation.
II – Reclaiming Our Faith: Negotiating Modern Theological Fault Line
These are challenging times for Muslims in the West, partly because of the distorted perception of Islam in the larger society. Zaytuna co-founders Hamza Yusuf and Hatem Bazian, along with several other scholars and prominent speakers discussed the importance of liberal education and how it can heal us and the society we live in.
Also, the event was a day-long conference on “Reclaiming Our Faith: Negotiating Modern Theological Fault Lines” at which an array of major scholars addressed a capacity crowd on topics as varied as the relevance of the Qur’an to modern life and the feminism that Islam inspires. Scholars at the conference included Dr. Jonathan Brown, Dr. Sherman Jackson, Anse Tamara Grey and Zaytuna faculty members Dr. Mahan Mirza and Faraz Khan, as well as co-founder Dr. Hatem Bazian.
The brief travel to the US gave me an opportunity to see how Islam is perceived in the West and how Muslims in America view it differently. Few weeks before my trip, the Boston bombing happened. I was worried at first that may be the US Embassy will not grant me a US Visa. Fortunately, they did give me a visa good for 10 years multiple entry. While I was in Anaheim, the hacking of a British soldier in London happened. This again brought a bad light to Islam and the Muslims. This act was condemned by Muslims all over the world, but still there are people who are ignorant of Islam that they tend to judge all Muslims by the acts of the terrorist.
My heart, as most Muslims felt when they heard this incident, reach out to the family. I can’t help but notice the reaction on twitter and social media. Many uninformed people blamed the incident to Islam and all Muslims in general. I believe that act is un-Islamic and that it can never be a part of it in Islam.
Situations like that can never discourage me in doing my work to advocate what Islam is and what it can contribute to the world and humankind. Attending conferences and events like the two participated give me courage and fuel my passion to work more.
Over all the following are my key reflections in my trip:
- We can never take for granted the power of information and knowledge generation about Islam. This religion can offer a number of ways of helping not only the Muslims but also the non Muslims. The key concepts of Shariah, Islamic Finance, Halal food and non food market, are driving factors that can counter terrorism, Islamists, and jihadist mindsets.
- Like the experience in Zaytuna College, liberal arts can further help in developing Islamic concepts and principles that are up to date to the needs of our communities and address current issues and events.
- We do need to engage our youth and religious leaders for concrete community work which leads to faith in action.
- We need to have more critical minded Muslims that are professional in their work in the government and business sector.
- The Muslim world cannot be taken as hostage by the Islamist and jihadist. However, the best way to address the issue on terrorism is through preventive mechanisms. We need to conduct more outreach programs in depressed Muslim communities in Mindanao. We need to provide more job and livelihood programs for our people so that the next generation will have more access to basic social services.
Launching of the Muslima (Muslim Voices), May 18, 2013 at Presidio, The Open Square, Futures Without Violence, 100 Montgomery Street in the Presidio of San Francisco
Samina Ali, a writer, artist and activist who lives in California, is curating the exhibition. She says: “All too often, Muslim women are seen as weak, powerless and subjugated. We wanted to reverse those stereotypes and allow Muslim women to speak themselves about their own lives.”
Reclaiming Our Faith: Negotiating Modern Theological Fault Line, May 25, 2013, Zaytuna College Conference & Benefit Dinner, Hilton Convention Center, Anaheim, CA.
Sheik Hamza Yusuf, Co Founder of Zaytuna College.
With Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J., the 27th President of University of San Francisco.