Tena koutou, Tena koutou, tena koutou katoaAssalaam alaykum, May Peace and blessings be upon you all.
It is a privilege to be here today to speak, not just as a woman, but as a Muslim woman.
When I was informed that the topic was “Unity in Diversity”. I decided to share with you this verse from the Quran [chapter 49 verse 13]
O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Indeed, the most honorable of you with Allah [God]is that [one] who fears God. Indeed, God is All knowing, All-Aware.
Two points to elaborate:
Point 1...‘Creation of mankind from a male and a female’
Gender relations in Islam are based on equity.
The narrative that we hear, so often, that women in Islam are oppressed, uneducated, unsophisticated and do not have equal rights, is TOTALLY untrue.
In fact, more than 1400 years Muslim women were given their due rights, And as as evidenced by our Holy Book, men and women are EQUALLY human, EQUALLY eligible for salvation and reward, EQUALLY inviolable, and EQUALLY recognised as promoters of good and a sign of God's mercy. We are NOT judged by our gender, but by our act of piety and righteousness.
Education/Knowledge is very important in Islam. The first word revealed in the Quran was IQRA,meaning READ. Hence, The first university was built by a woman. Another eg, A status of a mother is 3 times more, higher than a father, due to her hardships in childbearing and nurturing of the child.
Other Examples of important roles held by women:
-In the early centuries, women held positions of responsibility and were consulted with, even on matters of governance.
-The 2nd Righteous Caliph, Umar ibn Khattab, appointed 2 women as supervisors to oversee trade in the market.
-When a historical and consequential treaty was signed, the Prophet Muhammad [p.b.u.h] was directed by God to take allegiance from women directly, giving them the primary responsibility for their own lives and choices, and the opportunity to determine for themselves.
But sadly, Culture and tradition in the multicultural Muslim societies are hard to overcome. But it is of utmost importance to be able to differentiate the difference between what Islamic teachings are, and what culture and traditions are.
Point 2. ..and [God] made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.
The Islamic faith rejects all racial, tribal,cultural, social, political, intellectual SEGREGATIONS. Unity in diversity is strongly encouraged in this verse.
In the Farewell Sermon, Our Prophet Muhammad [p.b.u.h] said:
O Mankind, be aware: your God is One.NO Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, and a NON-Arab, has any superiority over an Arab. NO white one has any superiority over a black one, and NO black one has any superiority over a white one, Except on the basis of taqwa (piety). The most honorable among you in the sight of God is he who is the most pious and righteous of you.
Thus, Islam gives equal rights to all, male and female, rich and poor, noble and ignoble and there is no superiority of anyone over anybody else , except in terms of Taqwa/PIETY. And THIS is the basis of Islamic society.
To conclude, after the 15 March tragedy, New Zealanders came together to show their love, compassion and solidarity. We are One! They are Us! echoed everywhere.
It has been six months now. Most of us have slowly but surely, move on, or try hard to move on with our lives, and to look into the future.
As Muslims especially Muslim women, we would like to be safe, feel safe. We like to be heard and respected. We do not want to be judged for being different. We may look different, talk differently and have different worldviews. But we all have the same needs and wishes for ourselves and our families.
In moving forward, I would like to make some suggestions:
Let us look for common grounds/ not our differences.
Let’s make an effort to build bridges and learn about and from one another.
We all need to change our collective attitudes and norms.
Our differences make us strong and beautiful.
We are just like a garden full of different, but beautiful flowers.
In order to attain unity, we need to make an effort to get to know people who are different from us. By learning about other people and their culture.
Let our lives be enriched.
Let us move towards inclusion, so as to be richer and better.
What unites us will make us stronger, than what divides us.
Let us start to have conversations with people who are different than us.
And I also believe that we have to have conversations in our household, starting from our children as they are our future. We need to nurture a stronger and resilient next generation.
Let us be united and share in the vision of UNITY in DIVERSITY in this blessed country of NZ, Aotearoa.
Nga mihi nui, kia Kotou.
Wa salaam alaykum.