Mar 10, 2012

Give me a Cradle and I'll Change the World

By Saadia Faruqi

There should be no surprise in this statement: women can change the world. In the home as well as in public life, women bring a unique perspective that makes it inevitably better for all. American first lady Abigail Adams once said: “If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women.” A few days ago interfaith representatives from a multitude of religious groups got together to discuss the role of women in making a better society, and it was feminism at its best.

Continuing its tradition of facilitating interfaith dialogue, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community convened a women-only symposium to determine some concrete steps women could take to improve things in the world, one step at a time. I was one of the panelists, tasked with explaining Islam's point of view regarding this important role. I knew my own religious beliefs, which empower women to the extent that Heaven is said to lie under mothers' feet. Unfortunately people think Muslim women are devoid of their rights, bound at home to take care of the mundane duties of raising their children. What they don't realize is that raising children to be good human beings, giving them the comfort of motherhood, is an invaluable asset only women bring to the table.

What surprised me was that every speaker from every religious tradition at the symposium said essentially the same thing. That women's biggest contribution to society was not their job or higher education, not political involvement, but their role as a mother. Wow! All faith traditions place such huge emphasis on women in their primary role, I did not see that coming, although I probably should have! The event was moderated by Emilee Dawn Whitehurst, Executive Director of the Rothko Chapel; speakers were Manpreet Singh from the Sikh faith, Kalasudha Devi from the ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple, Rabbi Laura Sheinkopf, Hanna Fereg from the Arabic Baptist Church of Houston, Tricia McFarlin from the Buddhist faith, and myself. All in all, a very interesting event. 

Saadia Faruqi is the interfaith liaison for the  women's group of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and editor of Interfaith Houston. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Ahmadiyya Community or Interfaith Houston.

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