Radio Netherlands Worldwide

SSO Login

More login possibilities:

Close
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • LinkedIn
Home
Wednesday 26 November  
Zainab al-Suwaij
Michel Hoebink's picture
Map
New York, United States of America
New York, United States of America

Islam as a progressive force

Published on : 15 August 2012 - 9:17am | By Michel Hoebink (© United to End Genocide)
More about:

Zainab al-Suwaij

 

Greatest achievement: Establishment of the American Islamic Congress (AIC)

Controversial opinion: Muslims, who do not speak out against terror, are condoning it.

Loved by: The silent majority of moderate American Muslims.

Hated by:
Hate preachers claiming to speak in the name of Islam

 

 

In the United States, freedom of expression is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the constitution. That’s great, of course, but when everyone’s free to speak their minds the quieter voices are sometimes drowned out by the radical shouters. Iraqi-American Zainab al-Suwaij gave moderate Muslims a voice in the polarised American debates that followed the 9/11 attacks. To many, she’s a hero of free speech.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 gave Islam a bad press in the United States, and American Muslims were put on the defensive. Unhappy about this polarisation, Zainab al-Suwaij and some others established the American Islamic Congress (AIC) with the aim of promoting religious dialogue and tolerance. “Why should religious differences divide us? We did not want to let that happen. We had to focus on what we had in common. The attacks of 9/11 were also an attack on us, American Muslims.”

No complaints
Al-Suwaij, the granddaughter of a well known ayatollah in southern Iraq, was one of the few women who took an active part in the 1991 Shi'ite revolt against Saddam Hussein. She fled to the United States after the uprising failed. From the moment of her arrival on American soil, al-Suwaij wanted to do something with her newly acquired freedom. “I found Muslims in the US always playing the victim card, complaining of discrimination and so on. I didn’t want to complain, I wanted to be pro-active.”

The impetus to take action came after 9/11. Al-Suwaij wanted to show that Islam can be a positive, constructive force, advocating gender equality and mutual understanding between religious communities. Today the AIC, with al-Suwaij as its director, trains hundreds of young members in non-violent activism and social media mobilisation. In ten years time, what began as an informal students’ club has grown grew into an international organisation with more than 100 employees and six offices in the United States, Egypt and Iraq.

Common goals
Religious dialogue often seems to be defined by politically correct, multicultural dinner parties or monologues from religious leaders that make reconciliation seem further away than ever. The AIC, explains al-Suwaij, keeps itself distant from such things. “We don’t want religious leaders. We want normal people who talk about daily life issues and ask the question: How can we work together? What are our common goals?”

If you want religious dialogue, says al-Suwaij, ask yourself how you can benefit as many people as possible. “Make sure you do a project together for the larger community. Then it doesn’t matter anymore which religious book you read.” Even more important, she says, is the awareness that you have a common interest in the rejection of radicalism. “We don’t believe in violence; we don’t believe that people of other faiths are our enemies; we reject the extreme and radical views others want to impose on us. We cannot tolerate religious leaders preaching hate.”

Take responsibility
Dutch Muslims have often wondered why they should feel responsible for the terrorist acts of a bunch of half-mad radicals. Al-Suwaij does not approve of this attitude: “Of course you are responsible! Violence is conducted in the name of your religion, so it is your responsibility to denounce it. It is part of our training. When you see something wrong, you should speak out against it. Otherwise you are condoning it.”

Discussion

Anonymous 18 September 2014 - 9:33am

Simply wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your post is simply great and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work , http://mrqe.us http://mrqe.in http://www.usafashiontv.com are i am always using.

Joths 16 August 2012 - 1:10pm

Muslims fighting in India ,phillipines ,Iraq each other ,Thailand , Sudan.
Yes Islam really is a peacefull religion.

Anonymous 19 August 2012 - 7:59am / All

Your comment(s) about evil Islam reminded
me about (very) peaceful christians
such as Hitler and his associates.

Anonymous 20 August 2012 - 6:47am

Hitler was not a Christian. A Christian lives by the teachings of Jesus Christ. Hitler did not.

Post new comment

Please be reminded all comments must be in English, short and to the point - guideline 250 words. Abusive and inappropriate comments will be removed.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

RNW on Facebook

RNW Player

Video highlights

Ladies on the move
RNW is keen on featuring inspiring women in our target countries, women who...
What about men?
In many countries, men don't stick around to raise their children. This is...