How Does My Faith Establishes the Status of Women in Society?
By: Ghazala Saeed @lajnabpwcanada University of Waterloo.
What is the status of women in religion? What role does religion play to establish and protect women’s honour? Are men and women equal? These were some of the questions addressed by speakers of different faiths during the interfaith symposium organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association of Brampton West, the Flower City.
Held on March 7, 2021, the event brought about 600 women together for a dialogue that was held virtually for the first time. Faith speakers described how Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Sikhism play a substantial role to establish women’s status in a society that seems to be unfairly represented by men.
Jewish speaker Arliene Botnik mentioned Miriam, the sister of Aaron and Moses (peace be upon them) who became a strong role model for women.
Christian speaker Cathy Gibbs said, “From the very beginning, God made a perfect partner for a man. A partner, not a servant, not a slave. They were harmonious, they were balanced. Women were created in the image of God, just as men were.” Gibbs further explained how Jesus (peace be upon him) considered women as persons who should not be judged for their gender, age, or marital status.
Muslim speaker Nighat Faran highlighted the condition of women before the advent of Islam. She took the audience on an imaginary journey to the 6th century before Islam when, as she said, “A woman was not even deemed a person. She was considered an object that could be possessed, bought, sold or inherited by men.” She mentioned how the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) abolished those practices and established the status of women as people, daughters, wives, and mothers among other roles.
Harvinder Parmar, the Sikh speaker, said: “Guru Nanak, the founding Guru of Sikh faith emphasized the dignity of women in the way that was ahead of his time,” Parmar said “Sikh history also has recorded the role of women, portraying them as equal to men in service, devotion, sacrifice and bravery.”
Urz Heer, a senior advisor to Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, brought a video message from the mayor. “I want to thank the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for hosting this International Women’s Day event,” Brown said. “It’s great to have allies in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who work to celebrate women in our community.”
Sara Singh, a deputy leader of the Ontario NDP and MPP for Brampton Centre also attended the event. “We must continue to work together and explore ways [in which] we can unite and share common goals and visions, and spaces like this allow us to do that,” Singh said. “This is so important not only to foster unity and solidarity and sisterhood not only here today but to help plant those seeds for future generations to come.”
Kamal Khera, MPP for Brampton West, said, “Events like this are such a great opportunity to bring people together… we get so much farther together by learning from each other, by understanding and accepting each other and each other’s beliefs.”
In a video message, Tina Hickey of Brampton Fire and Emergency Services said, “Interfaith symposium cultivates positive learning and sharing of other religions, views and beliefs. It opens the door to better understanding of one another and to the building of new meaningful relationships within our community.”
During a reception at the Canadian Parliament on October 17, 2016, the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (May Allah be his Helper) said, “All people and all organizations must collectively endeavour to uphold human values, and strive to make the world in which we live, a better and far more harmonious place.”
During the Q&A session, when asked if there is an unnecessary pressure on women to have it all these days, Muslim speaker Faran said she believes it is true. She said Islam promotes moderation, which helps her find the balance between her family life and other work. Gratitude to Allah leads to happiness.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association (AMWA) is an auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community—a dynamic, fast-growing international divine dispensation within Islam. The community spans over 212 countries with the goal to share the true and peaceful teachings of Islam and to spread peace in our societies.
If you missed it this year, no worries! AMWA organizes interfaith symposiums every year across Canada. You can join us next year to share your values and to learn those of your community fellows.