Women’s interfaith network builds bridges amid Nigeria’s violence, Muslim and Christian mistrust

Peacebuilding1 cWhen Fatima Isiaka, a religious Muslim teacher, asked the cab driver to drop her off at St. Kizito Catholic Church in Abuja, the driver thought she was lost. “The cab man that took me to the church, a Muslim, was surprised to see me enter a church,” Isiaka recalled of the summer 2014 meeting. “He told me, ‘This is a church!’ I said, ‘Yes, I know.’ ”

Isiaka was part of innovative effort to bring Christian and Muslim women together in hopes of fostering religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network was first started in 2011by Sr. Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelue, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation, and local Muslim businesswoman Maryam Dada Ibrahim.

Isiaka, an observant Muslim who wears a grey jilbab, a long head covering and robe, the traditional dress of some Nigerian Muslim women, is a respected Muslim leader in Abuja. Today, she serves as deputy director in the network’s Abuja branch.

She looks back fondly on her time at the St. Kizito Catholic Church. “It was an amazing experience and I loved every bit of my stay there,” said Isiaka. “In fact, I found a place in the church where I performed ablution [ritual washing before Muslims prayer], to set up my mat and pray.”

Since the group started in 2011, the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network’s activities have reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country through seminars, meditations, presentations by religious leaders, and dialogue.

The peacebuilding network also offers vocational training in catering, bead making, fashion design, and soap production to a smaller group of women who participate in the annual 21-day seminar. “The empowerment [training] serves as bait to lure more women to the network so that they’ll learn peaceful coexistence,” said Isiaka. The Swiss Embassy provided seed money to get the vocational training started in 2014. Cardinal John Onaiyekan’s Foundation For Peace (COFP), an organization working for peace in northern Nigeria, has sponsored the vocational training in subsequent years.

Sr. Agatha Chikelue started thinking about how to build bridges between Christians and Muslims in 2008, as northern Nigeria disintegrated into violence. Nigeria’s population is evenly divided with 48 percent Muslims and 49 percent Christians. Northern Nigeria is majority Muslim, while southern Nigeria is majority Christian. Ensuring equal Christian and Muslim political representation at local, state, and national levels is an especially sensitive subject.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GLOBAL SISTERS REPORT 

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Why Christians Need to Support Women’s Rights and Religious Freedom in the Muslim World

MUSLIM BRITAlthough women’s rights and religious freedom are not commonly associated with one another in the world of the 1.6 billion Muslims, there is a correlation that must be uncovered.

According to Women and Religious Freedom by Nazila Ghanea, inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear.

Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly. For the Muslim world, the Quran reads in Sura 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”

Individuals must not be forced to follow a literal interpretation of religious teachings and traditions. Faith under force is invalid and ingenuine. Therefore, it is never in the public’s interest to force belief on individuals, regardless of gender, and restrict their right to question, explore and fulfill their purpose.

In fact, the research shows that women can contribute to greater peace and prosperity of a society when they are free to choose to exercise their own free will and belief (see here).

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

These historical women of Islam epitomize strength and leadership

kopftuchWomen’s History Month focuses on honoring the sacrifice, bravery and leadership of the many women who have impacted the world as we know it. In Islam, the role of a woman can become controversial. Many times the practice of social customs gets confused for religious obligations. This can be detrimental not only for the overall view of Islam, especially in the Western world, but also for Muslims themselves, who may be receiving a skewed and ultimately incorrect practice of Islam.

When considering the role of women, we should always look to our most perfect example, our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the relationship he had with his wives. More often than not, we think only of men when considering important figures in Islam and their role in securing Islam in this world. However, there were many Muslim women who also heavily contributed to the success, spread and overall beauty of this religion. The Prophet’s (SAW) wives were the beginning, but certainly not the end of this long strain of empowering and inspirational role models.

These historical women of Islam serve as guidance to us in strength, empowerment and leadership:

Amongst all the Prophet’s (SAW) wives, Khadija is one of the most well-known, even in the Western world. Khadija bint Khuwaylid was the first wife of the Prophet (SAW) and was the only one to gift him with children. Beyond carrying his lineage, Khadija helped the Prophet (SAW) become known through her established business. She was respected and well known amongst the people of her time, however, her biggest contribution to Islam was reassuring the Prophet (SAW) and pushing him to accept the message he received from the Angel Jibreel to read to the people. Khadija was the first woman to ever convert to Islam and her confidence and reassurance in his message allowed the Prophet to gain courage and carry out the difficulty that was establishing the religion of Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MY SALAAM

What Quran says about women’s rights

CNS-Catholic Islam CIt is a common misconception that Muslim women are oppressed under Islamic laws.

While this may be true in certain cases, the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s sayings prove otherwise.

On this year’s International Women’s DayPulse Religion seeks to change this narrative by revealing the truth and honoring Muslim women in the process.

The world sees a veiled woman as someone that is oppressed meanwhile Muslim women wear the hijab proudly
The world sees a veiled woman as someone that is oppressed meanwhile Muslim women wear the hijab proudly

Here is what the Quran and the religion have to say about women’s rights:

Women and men have similar rights

The Holy Book  says: “…and women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner,…” (Holy Qur’an, 2:228).

Whoever does good, whether male or female, and is a believer, We shall certainly make him live a good life, and We shall certainly give them their reward for the best of what they did.” (Holy Qur’an, 16:97).

FULL ARTICLE FROM PULSE 

The Female Quran Experts Fighting Radical Islam in Morocco

lead_960“The women scholars here are even more important than men.”

Morocco is in a region vulnerable to terrorist recruitment, but it hasn’t had a significant attack on its own soil since 2011, when terrorists bombed a Marrakesh café. Yet ethnic Moroccans have been at the center of ISIS attacks in Europe. The only alleged survivor of the 2015 Paris rampage is a Frenchman of Moroccan origin; his trial began last week. The men behind the Brussels airport and tram bombings that happened months later were also ethnic Moroccans. The suspected driver of the van that mowed down shoppers in Barcelona was Moroccan-born.

Some 1,600 Moroccans are thought to have joined extremist groups, mainly ISIS, since 2012, with some 300 still fighting with ISIS, according to Moroccan Interior Ministry figures. Although these figures are low compared to, say, Tunisia’s—some 7,000 Tunisians joined the group over the same period—the death toll in Europe has brought into focus the need for prevention and Morocco has come to play an outsized role in the debate over how, exactly, young people can be stopped from embracing radical Islam.

It’s one of many countries around the world experimenting with various “countering violent extremism” (CVE) or de-radicalization programs. As Maddy Crowell noted in The Atlantic, “Germany, Britain, and Belgium have developed programs that focus on further integrating radicals into their community. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, focuses on finding jobs and wives for recruited jihadists.” But programs that reach people once they’ve already been radicalized might come too late. “The most effective kind of rehabilitation and reintegration is the rehab and reintegration that doesn’t have to happen, because the person was afforded an off-ramp before they got to the point of no return,” Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department, told me. “What does that look like? It looks like early intervention and not necessarily and maybe not ideally by government officials.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

Tunisian women free to marry non-Muslims

_97814350_gettyimages-504960454Tunisia has overturned a law that banned women from marrying non-Muslims.

A spokeswoman for President Beji Caid Essebsi made the announcement and congratulated women on gaining “the freedom to choose one’s spouse”.

Until now, a non-Muslim man who wished to marry a Tunisian Muslim woman had to convert to Islam and submit a certificate of his conversion as proof.

Tunisia, which is 99% Muslim, is viewed as one of the most progressive Arab countries in terms of women’s rights.

The new law comes after President Essebsi pushed for the lifting of the marriage restriction decree that was put in place in 1973.

He said in a speech last month, during celebrations of the National Women’s day, that the marriage law was “an obstacle to the freedom of choice of the spouse”.

The restriction was also seen as violating Tunisia’s constitution which was adopted in 2014 in the wake of the Arab Spring revolution.

Human rights groups in Tunisia had also campaigned for the law’s abolition.

The order comes into force immediately and couples are free to register their marriages at government offices.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC 

Panel shares view on role of women in major religions

women

Women representing different religions came together Sunday to explore the important roles their gender played in the founding and development of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The panel discussion at the Turkish Cultural Center of Long Island in Ronkonkoma was part of “Abraham’s Table,” an interfaith series designed to share traditions and perspectives.

Rabbi Sheila Goloboy, Sister Vicki Toale and Middle Eastern studies lecturer Zuleyha Colak highlighted the women who, religious texts say, interacted directly with God or angels and guided the early leaders of the three major monotheistic religions.

Goloboy said the matriarchs of Judaism — including Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Hagar and Keturah — had “large roles” and “strong voices.”

“They’re socially subordinate to their husbands but not inferior,” said Goloboy, who is a social worker at Heart and Soul Community Counseling Center in West Babylon. “These were powerful women.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSDAY.COM