I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the 53rd Annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) this weekend. The lectures were lit, the bazaar was bomb, and the food was fire.
Actually though. That biryani was really spicy.
In all seriousness, I’m so grateful for ISNA. Tareq Ramadan’s thoughts on combating oppression were eloquent and eye-opening. Hearing Ibtihaj Muhammad and Linda Sarsour share their inspiring stories really galvanized a lot of youth into getting active as well. And Khizr and Ghazala Khan slayed, per usual.
However, there was a couple of kinks within the program that really stuck out to me. And I wanted to bring these items to light for everyone else to discuss.
First off: Let’s restructure some of those panels.
Over the years, ISNA has facilitated wonderful programs and discussions that are no longer thwarted by manels (all male-panels). While I 100 percent appreciate these efforts, I noticed that virtually all the women panelists or speakers were wearing hijab.
As someone who personally doesn’t wear the head scarf, this made me feel very alienated. Why should women have to cover to garner respect? People should not have to scrutinize over my wardrobe choices just to see if I’m worth listening to.
Furthermore, only about 50 percent of the Muslim women population wear the headscarf. If we have no problem telling the media to depict Muslims candidly and not just as terrorists or gunmen, why can’t we be accountable to ourselves as well?
Let’s create a landscape that is actually indicative of the real world.
Choosing to cover your hair is nothing more than a choice between you and God, so let’s please keep it at just that.
Another thing: MYNA, please stop segregating boys and girls in your discussions.
Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) programs are notoriously known for riveting dialogues and well-attended sessions. But we need to be very careful in how we’re shaping the minds of our future (scratch that, our current and future) leaders.
When you force kids to sit apart and construct that abnormal environment, you immediately sexualize co-ed relationships from a very young age.
This, in turn, perpetrates teens into believing that being friends with someone of the opposite sex automatically has to lead into something romantic, which is not the case at all.
Youth across the nation have such a deep reverence for the MYNA institution, so when a credible and noble organization commits an act like that, teens take those ideas to heart.
I’m not saying that you should start advertising Salaam Swipe (fyi, this is Muslim Tinder) at your next lecture, but let’s not force our children to ignore half of their peers for the majority of their formative years. Cooties aren’t a real thing people.
With the exception of these two reflections, I had such a fantastic time at ISNA. I learned about my own spiritual identity and what I can do to impact the Muslim community at home and abroad.
Thank you so much for anyone who helped champion this event; may Allah bless you and grant you all the highest levels of Janna.