In the eyes of a Muslim woman at Western
By Angela Waterfield
September 11 impacted every student at Western. One of these was Sarrah Lawendy, a second-year master's student in the faculty of education and senior advisor of the Muslim Students' Association. She spoke with The Gazette about the events of that day and how it affected her, a Muslim woman.
What do you believe is the main message or principal upon which the religion of Islam is built?
Islam is a proclamation of the oneness of God and the complete submission to Him. We submit ourselves to the Lord of all prophets and all things. It is through the submission to the will of God that the human being is able to achieve inner peace for the self and peace for the community at large.
How have the events of Sept. 11 affected you and your family?
The events of Sept. 11 shocked me and were an immense tragedy. An immediate effect on me was in recognizing that, although we live in North America and are born here, the violence of war has no borders. In our social context, the aftermath of 9/11 did not negatively affect me and my family, rather it was the media surrounding Sept. 11 that caused damage. On Sept. 11, when Western students harassed me in the streets and yelled obscene comments at me, it was apparent that racial profiling and intolerance were manifesting in the corners of our campus. I am a visible minority by choice, not by race. We would assume that on a campus which is supposed to house intellectuals, they would be capable of filtering through the misrepresentations and inequities of media reporting.
Has your sense of security and feeling of belonging on campus changed at all since Sept. 11?
Yes, it has. I no longer entrust my personal safety to the community. My walking patterns, travelling patterns and thinking patterns have changed drastically. On Sept. 11, it became apparent to me that ignorance breeds intolerance and that this type of emotion is easily transferable to acts of violence.
What do you feel is the largest misconception the western world holds in regards to Muslim women?
Muslim women are viewed as meek and helpless individuals who are controlled by a patriarchal community and God. Muslim women who choose to display the proper Islamic dress code are considered to have done this under duress and pressure and thought to be disadvantaged by this dress code. As a young Muslim woman who was born and raised in Canada, I would like to share with the Western community that I am one of those who has chosen freely to display my Islamic attire. Furthermore, I am most happy and confident with the way that I dress, as I command the respect of those around me. People are forced to see me as a human being with an intellect, rather than an object with a shape.
Is there a message you would like to express to Canadians in regards to the Islamic culture?
It is my hope that we will be recognized as those who are willing to share our religion and will be given the opportunity to participate on equal footing in the betterment of the western community. It is through this understanding that we may come closer to achieving this goal.