Editorial: "U.S. Muslim Women Must Speak Out for Freedom"

January 23, 2002

Source: Newsday

On January 23, 2002, Newsday featured an editorial by Zainab al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress in New Haven, Conn. "Ever since a terrorist cell of Muslim men launched a vicious attack on America, the scarf I wear has become a charged symbol... Although some women fear wearing a hijab in America, my experience has been just the opposite: People are respectful and understanding... On Oct. 8, I showed up at work and discovered many female colleagues - all non-Muslims - wearing the hijab as a sign of sisterly solidarity, an act repeated by American women across the country. It was a special day for America... I ask my Muslim friends to imagine the reverse scenario. If Americans had hijacked planes and crashed them into Mecca, would the Muslim world have ever shown such sympathy?... My friends cannot help but agree that the response we have encountered here is extraordinary... Now American Muslim women must respond in kind. We have come to America seeking safety and freedom, and rightly demanded equal respect and equal rights as citizens. Although American democracy has welcomed and accommodated Islam, the Muslim world continues to regard America with suspicion. And, for too long, we silently tolerated this one-way embrace... We have not done enough to denounce Islamic hate speech and defend pluralism around the world. The Muslim world and the American public must hear our voices. As Americans, we must work to ensure that respect for individual rights and tolerance are rooted within all parts of our community... American Muslims have a personal interest in strengthening and defending our country's values of tolerance and civil rights, under which we have thrived. So much is at stake, for us and for our country. Because, when and if our daughters choose to wear the hijab in public, they should do so in an America that recognizes Muslim women as its proudest freedom fighters."