January 23, 2012

#BlueBra, There Comes a Time. ~ Pranada Comtois

Photo: Emerentian

For the women of Islam

I am stepping out of deep mourning over the loss of my spiritual sister and lifelong friend. Though my eyes are swollen almost shut from crying since yesterday morning and I can barely take full breaths, I am impelled to speak about the Women of Egypt’s struggles.

Muslim women all over the region need to hear women’s united voices, our combined prayer. They have to claim their protection and sovereign human rights themselves, but to oppose the nearly insurmountable obstacles they face, let them here our cheers – feel our desire for their well being.

It is incumbent on every human being to hear the cries of Islam’s women.

I especially want to speak to the wise-women of America’s baby boomer generation. Together we comprise the largest number of women in their middle-ages that the United States has ever seen. We are the women that came into America’s work force like never before. We are the women who have been exposed to the broadest understanding of the world’s religious and spiritual paths. We are the women raising grandchildren in unprecedented numbers. We do this while we care for our aging or invalid mothers – and still nurture our adult childre – who for the first time in our history are not reaching maturity until their 30s and later. Caring for three generations, we have grown large in wisdom by our experiences and exposure to global realities.

Before we die it behooves us to give the great gifts we have received through our trials and triumphs. More has been given and more has been asked of us. More is required of us. Let us extend our love, and take any practical actions we can, to support our Islam sisters.

While visiting a young friend’s Facebook page she jokingly referenced a BBC news article; the article stated that a report was being circulated in Saudi Arabia saying: if women are given the right to drive, it could spell the end of virginity in the country. Several other young women on Facebook joined the discussion and laughed at the article.

I didn’t find the news report funny and the young women in America need to understand the seriousness of the misogyny Islam women face. We, as their mothers, need to educate them about the horrors of women’s abuse and the extent of the abuse that Islam women endure on a moment-to-moment basis.

Though I am not a follower of Islam, I support the religion of our Islam sisters. I understand that what is happening in the Middle East in several countries is not a secular uprising that demands modernity (in terms of how Americans see modernity).

But religious or not – whether interpreting the Torah, Bible, Bhagavad Gita or Shariah, or any secular laws, women must be empowered, dignified, and protected.

On NPR last week, Raghida Dergham, a columnist for a Pan-Arab newspaper, boldly asked ALL OF US to pay attention to what is happening in Egypt.

She asked the United States to reconsider our opinion of thinking the Islamist party a moderate party that can be worked with. Dergham pointed out that though women risked their lives, side-by-side with their fellow brothers last Spring at the Tahrir Square to bring about change in that country their rights are in jeopardy, their protection insecure. They are being sidelined.

Dergham says it’s “nonsense” for US policymakers to think they can work with the Islamists, until the female voice is represented, respected, and heard. According to her, Iranian women are telling Arab women,

Beware. We thought that if we are patient, if we take our time, if we are quiet in the beginning that we will recapture our place in the society. Take a look at us. This is not a place you want to be. Stand up to the Islamists and tell them, “Explain to me what are my rights.”

Since the US has a woman Secretary of State – who is well aware of the pains that chauvinism delivers – I’m surprised that US policy in our foreign relations doesn’t lend more support to women in the Muslim region. Mrs. Clinton, you must make sure that the US gives full support to Muslim women.

Many can disagree with Dergham, but today we cannot.

Today we see thousands of women protesting in Cairo after they saw another women attacked, stripped and beaten in the streets. They are proof that Dergham speaks the truth.

There comes a time when the abused must risk their lives to protect others.

It is time for the Islam women to face the daunting task of standing up to widespread, systematic misogyny and disempowerment.

If American women thought they had to face difficulties over the past one hundred years seeking the right to vote and a place of dignity in society, we can think twice, three, and four times about the difficulties our Muslim sisters face. The social and religious structures are so profoundly embedded that the women’s hope for basic rights is almost unachievable.

But the impossible is possible when people are pushed for years and years and years beyond reason.

Open your heart to their struggle. Keep them in your prayers in the days, weeks, months, and years as they find their voices and strength to stop the abuse and misuse of power.

Let us speak our minds and demand our country’s policies reflect the precious rights of women of Islam. Let us not condemn their sacred religious choices. Let us raise the discussion. Women give birth to and nurture the world.  Women protect the world.

Let us send them a message, women of Islam – take your power back. We understand your pain. You must do this for your daughters, granddaughters, and future generations. We cannot do this for you. You must stand strong in your countries. We love you.

Let us not laugh on Facebook. Let us use Facebook and Twitter and all mediums available to us to embolden our sisters in the Muslim world. Let us send messages to our own politicians, our own religious leaders that we will not tolerate seeing the Women of Islam sidelined, attacked, stripped and beaten in the streets.

#BlueBra now.

And to whomever is her mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter – hold nameless, faceless, frightened BlueBra in sacred embrace.

Pranada Comtois is a writer, speaker, teacher, and founder of Little Ways of Being™. She shares “the path of unconditional love” in her blog, seminars, and workshops; volunteers as the Managing Editor for Bacopa Literary Review; is raising her precious three-year-old granddaughter; grabs any free time (like when?) to write poetry; is trying to find an agent for her nonfiction book, and enjoys kirtans with friends. Pranada believes women are natural spiritual leaders, the world needs more of us owning that power, and is passionate about assisting women exercising our full spiritual potential. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter as well as her website.

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