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Proudly Presenting Connection Point/نقطة تواصل

27 January 2011 2 Comments

by Mary Liepold, Editor in Chief

“We are under siege by Muslim terrorists,” says Peter King, a Republican Congressman from NY who just became chair of the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. King’s plan to hold Congressional hearings in late February on the “radicalization of Islam” is alarming American Muslims and many others.

The same day this story appeared in The Washington Post and Politico, 35 people were killed and 180 wounded in a bomb attack in Moscow. Muslim Chechens are being blamed, though so far without evidence. And in Peshawar Pakistan, 10,000 people turned out to protest US drone attacks on regions thought to be harboring militants, with signs ranging from the harshly generic “Death for Americans” to the plaintive “Listen Obama, do not kill innocent Muslims.”

Photo credit: Patricia Smith Melton, editor of Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women

Whatever faith or tradition we claim, the vast majority of us would describe ourselves as innocent―innocent of violence, and even innocent of ill will. But as we used to say back in the 60s, if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. “The real cause of the trauma facing humans today is the absence of systematic dialogue,” Her Excellency Houda Ezra Nonoo, Ambassador from Bahrain to the US, told me in a Peace X Peace interview. Psychologist Carol Gilligan states categorically: “In this world, the measure of peace is connectedness.”

Connectedness is just what Peace X Peace has been building since its founding in 2003. Systematic dialogue among women around the world is our life blood. Now, in light of the headlines above and others too numerous to count, we’ve created Connection Point, a specific, dedicated space to showcase the beauty and diversity of women from Arab and Muslim communities and initiate dialogue on the many facets of our necessary relationship. The first features will appear next week, and we’ll be adding new features that make the program richer and more interactive in the weeks and months ahead. At the same time, we will continue to feature other voices from around the world on our website, in our Voices from the Frontlines, and in PeaceTimes.

Najuan Daadleh

Najuan Daadleh, a young Palestinian Israeli who has been featured in Voices from the Frontlines, is the Project Manager for Connection Point. Najuan explains why this work matters to her:

“I’m inviting American women, as well as Arab and Muslim women, to question their perceptions, knowledge, and stereotypes about their Arab/Muslim and American sisters. Both groups should seek to widen their connection and communication with each other. I believe that new forms of media, like blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter, the Peace X Peace Community, and Connection Point, can be a credible source for such knowledge.”

More than a dozen distinguished women from different national and cultural backgrounds have agreed to serve on the Connection Point Advisory Council. We asked them: Why is this initiative needed? What do you most want mainstream American women to know about their Arab and Muslim sisters?

Suaad Allami is an attorney, the director of Iraq’s Women for Progress Center, and a former Hubert Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota Law School. Suaad says:

“I believe this initiative is very important for our people, to eliminate misunderstanding between East and West, and to bridge these relationships through women, who are the producers of life and peace for their families and communities. It is a pleasure for me to be part of this initiative.”

“Women are leading the change,” says international energy expert Randa Fahmy Hudome.

Rula Salameh

Rula Salameh says, Watch us rise! Rula is a longtime Peace X Peace member and peace activist best known today as the Palestinian Producer on the team that created the topnotch documentary Budrus.

“Despite the many challenges and continuing struggles that are facing Muslim women, I’m happy to inform you that we have achieved many of the goals we set for ourselves .  .  .

The women’s movement in the Muslim world has begun to take on Islamic forms rather than aping the Western feminist form. Muslim women are breaking many of the chains around their wrists and are taking their righteous place in their society. The number of Muslim women in universities is equal to if not higher than that of Muslim men. Many have broken the workforce glass ceiling and are now working side by side with their male counterparts. Muslim women now are providing a second income for their families, and in many cases they are the sole provider.”

Necla Tschirgi shares Rula’s optimism. Dr. Tschirgi, a native of Turkey, is a specialist in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, with particular focus on the nexus between security and development. Since September 2010 she has been Professor of Practice, Human Security and Peacebuilding at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego. She says:

“Western women would do well to go beyond stereotypes of Muslim women as passive subjects and pay closer heed to women’s rising demands for political and economic empowerment as well as socio-cultural self-expression. The new information age promises to expand women’s engagement in the public sphere both domestically and internationally and to strengthen women’s solidarity movements globally.”

Hazami Barmad

Hazami Barmada is the president and CEO of Al-Mubadarah: Arab Empowerment Initiative and founder and executive director of the Iraqi Orphan Initiative, among other roles. Her answer expresses weariness as well as good humor.

“As an Arab and Muslim in America, every outing from jogging at the gym to a trip to the grocery store becomes a political and religious debate. As soon as my identity is known, I become a spokesperson for the entire Middle East, Arab, and Muslim worlds. I am expected to speak on behalf of government systems, geopolitical situations, economic development, religion, social rules and values of over 25 countries, and speak for ‘oppressed women worldwide’ in the amount of time it takes to ring up people’s groceries. Biased and limited news and coverage and overly simplistic social labels marginalize people like me, who face repercussions of this ignorance in our daily lives.

The Quran says that God created people different and grouped them together into nations and tribes so that they would come to know one another. It also says that human diversity is part of the divine wisdom and an intentional purpose of creation: “If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people…” (11:118). . . . I pray that we move to a world that accepts that we cannot continue to bind people to limited categories and stereotypes because in doing so, we are stripping people from their personal freedoms. We each have a personal story to tell, and those stories not only make us unique, but make us who we are. Modern day values stress independence, however we live in a time that requires interdependence. We must work independently, together, allowing us to build on a collective vision of community, family and freedom for all.”

You’ll be hearing from all these wise women again, as well as the other members of our new Advisory Council. You’ll be learning more about the backgrounds and experience they bring as well. For now, let me give the last word to Patricia Smith Melton, Peace X Peace founder and creator of Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women.

“Women know the arts of connection and communication best. We are the natural leaders for the needs of our times — and Connection Point is where womanpower, citizen-to-citizen global outreach, and the power of the internet come together.

There will not be lasting peace until individuals speak to each other across the fears, wounds, and misunderstandings that divide our cultures.  We must learn about each other, discover how we are alike, and appreciate that we need and love the same things. Then we can care for each other, inspire each other, and work together as friends and family to do the huge cleanup job in front of us.”

We invite you to be part of the Connection Point initiative too. Learn more about the project here.  We are currently seeking articles from Muslim and Arab women sharing their views, inspirations, and stories from daily life. We’d love to hear from you!

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2 Comments to “Proudly Presenting Connection Point/نقطة تواصل”
  1. joanne collens says:

    YES!

    It does my heart good to read the above words from the next generation of peace lovin’ wymen! This old hippie is proud of you ladies for being here in this time to take the next step to the being the change we want to be. It is time.

    Thank you Mary and Patricia for leading the way.

    Namaste,

    j. collens

  2. srihari amudhala says:

    our immediate responsibility and task to every human being in the earth is establishing peace in each and every country and nooc and corner in entire world . For that we the peace-mongers should join hands to and establish peace in non-violence prevailed countries to give our Gandhian way and mode of propaganda and counciling.

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