This post is by Christian Albers, a vicar from Germany who is interning at the Lutheran Office for World Community at the United Nations in New York.
When Daisy Khan was introduced today at the Faith and Feminism Brown Bag Lunch sponsored by the Sister Fund in New York City, the Muslim woman was compared to no one lesser than Jesus himself. While one might question whether this comparison was appropriate, Kanyere Eaton from the Sister Fund made it clear what she meant: “She is the one we were waiting for.”And indeed, although Ms Khan is neither male nor a Jew nor the Messiah, she is an extremely remarkable person, who is reconciling something urgently in need of reconciliation: Muslim faith and feminism.
Daisy Khan’s interest in religion and interfaith dialogue are rooted in her childhood. Born to a Muslim family in Kashmir, Ms Khan attended a Christian school with predominantly Hindu teachers, played in her childhood with Sikh friends and bought food from Buddhists. Finally, Kashmir is regarded as the lost tribe of the people of Israel.
But it took Daisy Khan some time, including times of doubt, until she found to her own Muslim faith through Persian poet Rumi, who said “I looked for God. I went to a temple, and I didn’t find him there. Then I went to a church, and I didn’t find him there. And then I went to a mosque, and I didn’t find him there. And then finally I looked in my heart, and there he was.”
Ms. Khan came to the United States as a teenager, and went on to study architecture, and work in interior design. But after Sept. 11, that she felt the urgent need to put together her Muslim faith and her commitment for the advancement of women. She realized that these two things ultimately belong together especially because many people, religious and feminist, still think that these two sides are mutually excluding.Her ultimate goal is to show that Islam has the power to positively inspire women and transform society.
As executive director for American Society for Muslim Advancement, she has convened several conferences to raise the often marginalized voices of Muslim women in matters of politics and religion. Her goal is to create a think tank of Muslim women scholars that can engage in debate with the Islamic judicial and theological systems. She explained that there is indeed quite a number of highly qualified female Islam lawyers (Mufti) but only a few of them actually can serve in an official position – mostly as vice muftis and only in Turkey. The think tank attempts to use the expertise of women Islam scholars in order to be heard by religious and political leaders.It was very inspiring for me to meet Daisy Khan and I’m looking forward to hearing her and other Muslim women’s voices making a difference in the future religious dialogue.