The WISE conference that I attended this weekend was a tremendous experience. It was humbling to be siting next to women who had done so much, spoken out so fearlessly, put up with so much. It was inspiring and uplifting as well, and motivating. There is so much to be done for women's rights.
I will, God willing, be posting over the next few days about the conference, but one thing that sruck me was the breadth of people invited. There were conservatives, even people I might call hyper-conservative, the moderates, the liberals, the progressives, the sufis, the sunnis, the shiis, immigrant Muslims, convert Muslims (from the african american, white american and latino communities), and so on.
One thing became evident to me over the weekend -- there was a lot of tension between these groups. Duh. Right? Everyone knows there is tension between progressives and conservatives, with the former being labeled as lesser Muslims or even apostates by conservatives, and the latter feeling that progressives feed all too easily into Islamophobic stereotypes of them. Everyone knows there is tension between immigrant Muslims and the indigenous Muslim community. Everyone knows that the Sufis are often slighted as not being real Muslims at all, or at least as being a bit flaky and heterodox.
But I've never felt those tensions quite so palapably as I did in that room. It was clear that the women were not totally comfortable with each other. The most notable was that the conservative women were obviously feeling pressure, censure even. Other discussions made it clear that some groups worried about being marginalized -- progessives, or sufis, or african americans.
It struck me that the Muslim commmunity has put a lot of effort into interfaith dialogue in the past twenty years, maybe we need to start putting a similar effort into intra-faith dialogue.
When the Christians started interfaith dialogue, it meant Baptists sitting down with Methodists. Or Protestants sitting down with Catholics. I think the Muslim community really needs similar dialogue.
It's such a simple and obvious idea, I'm ashamed to admit I haven't thought of it before. Sad thing is, no one else seems to have thought of it either.Islam, Feminism