Around 150 Muslim women attended a community event last Friday evening, organised after the attack by politicians and the media on the Islamic practice of gender segregation.
They were addressed by a panel of notable Muslim women from across the community – prominent journalist Yvonne Ridley, Islamic female scholar Fatima Barakatullah of IERA, Zara Faris of Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI), Women’s Media Representative of Hizb ut Tahrir, Britain Shohana Khan and Aisha Azri, Head of a London ISOC.
All the panellists addressed an attentive female audience, on the issue which has received much media attention in recent weeks. They all discussed how this attack was part of the wider agenda against Islam, as gender segregation was nothing alien to the current society in toilets, changing rooms, hospital wards.
They all iterated the need to unite as Muslim women in order to respond to the attack as there is a concerted effort to silence their voices. The responses included first and foremost having a unified voice, and then dispelling the myths the media perpetuates about the Islam’s view of women through practices like gender segregation and niqab.
Aisha Azri gave a heartfelt account of how the Islamophobic atmosphere on campus has negatively affected Muslim students. She said: “This ban is not about gender segregation, it is about our beliefs”.
Yvonne Ridley told the audience how ludicrous and unfounded the entire attack was, “We cannot allow secularists to hijack this issue…we must defend our beliefs”.
Zara Faris gave a thoroughly thought-provoking account of how liberalism is “hell bent on imposing its own views on the world”.
Fatima Barakatullah urged the Muslim community to unite and speak out to defend Islam, “In Islam silence is consent; if you are silent you are consenting”.
Shohana Khan explained that these attacks as being part of a wider agenda, which is aimed at deeming orthodox Islamic practices as extremist. She said: “There is a narrative that abiding by these Islamic practices will lead you to commit the unIslamic act of violence. Make sense?”
Members of the audience engaged with the panel, offering comments and questions during the Q&A session. The event ended with a strong feeling of unity, with a will to stand up against the Islamophobic pressure with a clear message – Muslim women would continue to speak out and adhere to their values and practices.
As one audience member said, “The secular media are not interested in what we have to say, so sisters we have to be our own media”.
You can follow the speakers on Twitter: @[email protected] @zarafaris @FatimaBarkatula