J’can wo­man em­braces Mus­lim faith

Jamaica Gleaner - - FEATURE - Damion Mitchell Editor – Ra­dio & On­line damion.mitchell@glean­erjm.com

JUST OVER a year ago, St Cather­ine Jus­tice of the Peace Audrey Maragh aban­doned her Chris­tian fa­mil­iar­i­ties to join the Ah­madiyya Mus­lim faith. At an in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion of the com­mu­nity in the United King­dom last month, she delved into the Biat, a rit­ual to con­firm her be­lief as an Ah­madi.

It has been a talk­ing point for the peo­ple of Old Har­bour weekly, as she dons her shayla head­wear and dis­em­barks her taxi at the en­trance to the Old Har­bour Road-based mosque to make her way to Fri­day prayers.

The anx­i­ety is al­ways trig­gered by the head­wear and the mode of dress, then come ques­tions about the seg­re­ga­tion and sup­pres­sion of Mus­lim women.

“The fact that I am not naked does not mean I am not free,” Maragh told The Sun­day Gleaner.

She also in­sisted that there is eq­uity in her re­li­gion.

“I am en­cour­aged to get an ed­u­ca­tion, I am en­cour­aged to do what­ever job I want, I am just en­cour­aged to be the best I want to be. What is un­lib­er­at­ing about that?” she ques­tioned.

Sarah Khan, 36, who lives in London, was born an Ah­madi. She con­curred with Maragh. “I found again and again ex­am­ples of strong women who would speak out,” she said. “Per­haps ev­ery­one would ques­tion, but I have no doubts.”

EN­QUIRIES EN­COUR­AGED

Toobah Khokhar, 19, ad­mits that while grow­ing up, she would ques­tion some of the com­ments in the me­dia about women’s rights in the Mus­lim re­li­gion, and she said her en­quiries were en­cour­aged.

But do the Mus­lim women fore­cast changes in their re­li­gion that would seek to re­move re­stric­tions based on gen­der?

Ac­cord­ing Sarah, there is no need for this. “In terms of teach­ings, they are ad­e­quate for now and they won’t need to be al­tered,” she said.

Khokhar would agree, say­ing Is­lam is a re­li­gion that is sup­posed to be for all times, in­clud­ing the 21st cen­tury, where so­cial me­dia is dom­i­nant.

“We are en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate in the mod­ern world with our voice but still with the core val­ues of Is­lam,” she said.

The mat­ter of the seg­re­ga­tion of Mus­lim women in wor­ship and oth­er­wise was also among the is­sues placed be­fore the world head of the Ah­madiyya Mus­lim com­mu­nity, Mirza Mas­roor Ah­mad.

“They will never say be­cause of seg­re­ga­tion they are sup­pressed,” he said of women.

“They are free to move, to learn, to get their ed­u­ca­tion, to do their ac­tiv­i­ties and they are happy with this,” he told re­porters from his London of­fice.

At the same time, Maragh said she un­der­stands the scep­tism about Mus­lim women in the Ja­maican con­text.

“In Ja­maica, a lot of peo­ple, when you say ‘Is­lam’, the only word that comes to mind is ter­ror­ism, and it’s go­ing to take a while for that myth to go away – that Mus­lims are not ter­ror­ists. Ter­ror­ism is a crime that is car­ried out by who­ever you are,” she said.

Audrey Maragh Fuller

Sarah Khan

CON­TRIB­UTED PHO­TOS

Toobah Khokhar

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