The speeches that evening kicked off with an insider view from Aisha Arzi (London Isoc), who confessed the innumerable barriers faced by Isocs in setting up simple events because of the stifling and difficult attitude of university staff toward them. She also relayed bizarre talks of a ‘segregation squad’ that would potentially be patrolling segregation on campus in future – sounds to me like liberalism’s very own ‘haram police’!
Yvonne Ridley (Journalist), who was noticeably donning an ever impressive fur hat, lambasted the West for daring to imagine that Muslim women need rescuing and need to be told what to wear; she demanded that these men ought to be getting out of Muslim women’s wardrobes immediately!
Fatima Barkatulla (iERA) urged Muslim women to take both personal and collective responsibility to convey an accurate understanding of Islam and explain the actual views of Muslim women to the greater society.
Shohana Khan (HT) pointed out the glaringly obvious; that for all the media brouhaha on segregation, there has been absolutely no demand from Muslim women – students or otherwise – against having to be segregated! No doubt, I am sure, the media will wave this away by simply saying that muslim women are too oppressed to speak out – despite the fact that Muslim women are front-running the discussion by having held this event – which the same media curiously don’t turn up to cover!
I discussed liberalism and whether we are witnessing the double standards of liberalism, or simply experiencing the harsh, unapologetic, reality of liberalism: that it is intolerant of any religion that does not conform to liberal values. According to this totalitarianism of liberal values, if I choose to sit with other women rather than men, I am apparently somehow lowering myself – which, quite frankly, says much more about the liberal perception of women than it does of Islam’s.
I also explained how it is not for Muslims to condemn each other for having different Islamic opinions on the matter of segregation (or even the niqab); rather, that we should be taking a unified stance against the continuing barrage of frivolous attacks against Islam.
This sense of unity in the face of intolerance was echoed by the other panellists, and a decision was made to galvanise this unity by initiating an alliance or a coalition of Muslim women from different organisations and different parts of the Muslim community in order to effect a solid, single, resounding voice. In effect, this association of Muslim women and organisations is exactly what this momentous gathering turned out to be the beginning of.
A video of the event, and a transcript of my speech, will be available very soon, inshaAllah.