Saturday, August 26, 2006

While blokes wear bangles …

“Only in America” is the common refrain we repeat when we read of some wacky development in the land of the free. But sometimes the Yanks do get things right.

On Tuesday, the Islamic Society of North America announced that it had elected a woman as President.

Now I’m sure some of our more conservative readers will be rushing to their bookshelves to make sure they get the right wording for that hadith. You know, the one where the Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) apparently said that any Muslim organisation who chooses to be lead by a woman is bound to become the target of awful translations from Dicky Kerbaj at The Oz.

And before you get too excited, I should tell you that the rest of her executive are blokes. Plus, this isn’t the first time she’s been on the exec of ISNA. Last year, she was Vice President.

Anyway, who is this woman whose election threatens to bring the sky crashing down on the Taliban? Her name is Dr Ingrid Mattson.

OK, I agree. Her name isn’t exactly Shaykha Maulani Hojji Aisha Amina Khadija Yasmin as-Sumsheila. But she is a woman. She is also a Professor of Islamic Studies at the Hartford Seminary. From memory, they are the dudes and dudettes who produce that journal “The Muslim World”.

Dr Mattson is no stranger to Islam or Muslims. After completing her undergraduate philosophy degree at the University of Waterloo, she worked with Afghan refugee women in Pakistan from 1987-88.

In 1999, Dr Mattson earned her PhD in Islamic law from the University of Chicago. She went to study there on the invitation of Professor Fazlur Rahman, an American scholar whose students included the former Indonesian President and head of Nadhatul Ulama Sheik Abdur Rahman Wahid.

Dr Mattson has written on a variety of legal, political, historical, literary and social subjects, and you can read them all online here.

One day, Muslims in Australia can get their act together. Perhaps that will only happen when women take control. After all, Muslim men seem to have lost the plot. Or as my mother says: “Qambakhat admiyon ne chooriyan pahan-na shuru karliya hai!” (i.e. those blasted men have started wearing bangles!).

Still, at the very least Muslim women in Canberra are getting their act together. So if you are reading this and you happen to be female, make sure you head down to the Canberra Islamic Centre on 1 & 2 September for Sawt – Voices of Women National Muslim Women’s Conference. Pru Goward will be there to launch the show, and I’m sure the Lebanese (and other) women there will be friendlier to her than the ones she might encounter at the Epping Liberal preselection!

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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