Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A perspective from a sister in ACMY

A perspective from a sister in the American Muslim Women’s
Leadership Training Program from Zarinah Shakir

This was such a whirlwind journey for a planned five weeks of Islam from an UAE perspective starting from America in Washington, DC in December, 2008 with the night meeting at the Washington Plaza Hotel with a very ethnically, diverse group of professional sisters, two students (undergraduate and law), and invited guests to see the sisters off.
The next day started with a breakfast meeting of twenty sisters chosen for the program. The idea of the program germinated with Brother Khalid Ahmed from America for a group of imams who attended the Zayed House of Islamic Culture the previous year from America and it was through some cajoling that he decided to address the needs of sisters for this year. As the coordinator of the program, he greeted the “chosen” women along with Imam Yusef Maisonet from Mobile, Alabama (an attendee from last year’s Imam’s program and our resident photographer). Additionally, in the afternoon a gathering was arranged for the group to meet on Capitol Hill with Congressman Andre Carson (D-Indiana) and members of the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association before leaving the United States.
As we prepared to depart from Dulles Airport the sisters took time to get to know each other. The flight from Washington, DC to the United Arab Emirates was about twelve hours. Once we arrived at the Abu Dhabi Airport, we were greeted by our sponsors from the Zayed House of Islamic Culture located in Al Ain, part of the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Unlike most arrivals into another country, we received the “royal treatment” in a beautiful waiting room at the airport. We were treated with beverages, sweets and picture taking from the Zayed House and airport staff. And, we didn’t have to wait for the usual long line at customs.
Upon arriving at the Zayed House, we were all given villa assignments to room with several sisters. I chose to stay with three sisters (blood-related and African-American) originally from Jackson, Mississippi. I felt because I knew their mother, Okolo Rashid, the director and founder of The International Museum of Muslim Cultures, that I could act as a surrogate mother and get to know these delightful young ladies all with their own talents and individual personalities.
The first day in Al Ain we were all taken to a local hospital to have very, general health checkups. I was in the group with the older and more experienced sisters. Also, since I am the second oldest one on the trip, it gave us an opportunity to converse with one another, share “war stories,” and beginning to genuinely get to know each other.
The program was an experience of a lifetime designed with classes to enhance us with additional Islamic knowledge: fiqh, shariah, aqidah, hadith and, of course, Arabic and Tajweed in Quranic recitation. Some of the sisters were born into Islam and many of us converted/reverted as adults. I was exceptionally pleased with the structure of the curriculum. Although, it seemed to be highly accelerated and quite intensive, the pace was not beyond our capacities to be students again. For those of us who have procrastinated in learning some of the basics of the Arabic language it has been a dream come true. The instructors, staff and all were incredibly kind and thoughtful.
One of the highlights of this program was the opportunity to meet and peripherally get to know new sisters in Islam from America.  However, the star of our group was a young and upcoming leader, Tahanie Aboushi.  She not only participated in all the classes and other programs, but she took on the duties of "In residence" liaison for the sisters, Zayed House and Brother Khalid Ahmed.  She handled herself with the utmost of respect, dignity and sisterly adab while also dealing with the plight of her own people, the Palestinians and a mini-holocaust occurring only a few miles away.  Lookout New York and the world you have a Human Rights activist and lawyer preparing to take center stage, InshaAllah.

I want to thank the Zayed House of Islamic Culture for all of the outstanding programs and sessions both on and off premise that we participated in and enjoyed. Upon returning to America, requests for presentations have already been emailed for different audiences Muslim and non-Muslim. I am preparing to do press duties for the Muslim Inaugural Gala in Washington, DC and the advent of a new President, Barack Hussein Obama. Again, I am thankful to add this to my other interfaith travels abroad. This one has been especially grand.
Finally, this especially must be said, I thank Allah for this blessing and may Allah continue to bless us to assist in the spreading of this wonderful deen. Alhamdulillah.

No comments: