Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rebel With a Cause

Inspiration strikes when you least expect it.

Asra Nomani is full of this inspiration and spirit. Having the unique opportunity to meet and converse with her, I found it to be an uplifting and moving experience.

Nomani was a guest speaker at Vol State, and the purpose was to give some understanding of women in Islam and the Muslim religion. She began by telling how her mother has always been a rebel in her own right and even took off her veil in college although she knew it wasn’t allowed as an Islamic woman.

Nomani speaks of following your heart and the struggles that all young people have when we are trying to come into our own. “You have to keep moving towards that purpose,” Nomani said. “In all of our lives there comes a moment where we have to make a choice,” Nomani said.

January 23, 2002 was that day for Nomani. This was the day that Nomani’s friend Daniel Pearl was captured. She goes into the details of the agonizing wait for him to come and join her and his wife for dinner. Hours go by before they realize that he has been captured. Some of Pearl’s last words were, “I am a Jew.” Nomani said that Jews and Christians weren’t supposed to be friends with Muslims and this was one of the reasons Pearl was captured. “I went back to the same expression of faith that I had learned as a child. This was the same faith that was used for murder,” Nomani said. She realized that this wasn’t how her faith was supposed to be. In that moment she came to the realization that she needed to fight for her beliefs.

Women and men cannot pray in the main prayer hall of the Mosque together. When asked if she thinks the religious struggles are political she said, “I do believe that the struggle is political. It is a power struggle.”

On November 6, 2003 Nomani enters the Mosque in Morgantown, W. Va. through the front doors with her mom, dad, and son. Nomani says this is where certain choices and paths come up in your life. “I knew that if I stepped back instead of walking forward in the church I would be affirming the segregation,” said Nomani. The events are covered in “The Mosque in Morgantown” documentary. It is still a struggle for women of Muslim faith to pray in the main prayer hall alongside the men, but Nomani’s strength has helped to open the door for women. “I had to overcome so much fear to walk through that front door. Each one of us can make change. There is a definite role for each one of us to make a change,” said Nomani.

Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal writer and the author of her current book titled “Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.” Nomani is a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, and leads a faculty-student project, “The Pearl Project.”
Volunteer State Community College

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