A Shout in the Name of Islam

  General Information

Daisy Khan (formerly known as Farhat Khan) a native of Kashmir-India, moved to Long Island-New York at the age of sixteen. She was not the first person in her heir to have stepped their foot in the United States — in fact grand father Ghulam Hassan Khan had studied engineering in Harvard School. Daisy arrived in NY with her aunt and uncle and was enrolled to a school dominated by Jewish students. During the first years in the US she struggled to fit in with her classmates and seemed out of place. Fortunately, later on she won their hearts by being a star in field hockey as well as proving her talents in art and playing guitar.

Daisy continued higher-education in arts and later on became an architechural designer to some of the most important business offices in the disctrict. She was known to be a workaholic and had very little time to think about faith. Diasy abandoned Islam in her 20’s, reasoning that it was painful to fight for people that hardly relate. Her career as an architect continued to rocket, and before she knew it, she was already on the top floor of the World Trade Center working for Shearson Lehman Brothers. On lunch hours Daisy would take a walk to Masjid al-Farah, where she then met a liberal Imam – Mr. Abdul Rauf. Thetwo became close but never once did the imam don Daisy to wear a Hijab or fight over her choices, though he did ask her to speak out for Islam. She then reconciled her relgious Identity of being a Muslim and left the job later on for this very reason.

Mr. Rauf and Ms. Khan married in 1996, where they then has always been known as the couple who fought for the advancement of Islam. Together, they has built a nonprofit organization now known as American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), aiming to promote a more progressive Islam (or modern Islam, as they would say). Daisy has been known as a leader to one of the most biggest Islamic controversies in the states: the construction of a community center – known as Cordoba Initiatives (Park51) on ground Zero. She has been agressive and tenacious in fund-raising as well as looking of support to friends and asking for a signature. She is until this very day a great icon of Islam in the United States of America.

(rewritten from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/fashion/14khan.html?pagewanted=1)

The Meeting

On June 29, 2011 delegations of the US-Indonesia Partnership Program received the honor to meet with Daisy Khan. We arrived at her office on the Upper-West Side of New York and was warmly greeted by her assistants and internees. To be frank, at first I didn’t have the slightest idea to why Daisy Khan was such a prominent figure. I had only read a short passage about her earlier that day. So I didn’t really know what to expect when meeting her…

The discussion started off with an introduction about Daisy Khan herself, more or less (well definitely less detailed) like the general information I have written above. An addition to the informatin NYtimes has given above, she explained a little difference in what I like to call “sub-faith” with her husband, meaning that she flows in a stream not quite the same as her husband. Unfortunately, the 6 months I have postponed in writing this article has created somewhat a short-term-memory loss and this brain couldn’t quite remember the names of the streams. What I do remember is that Daisy is more “modern” than Mr. Rauf.

The discussion continued to Daisy’s short presentation of her non-profit organization, ASMA. There were three focuses that she mentioned. The first concerning Interfaith Dialogue. The monthly (or is it weekly?) dialogue with leaders and prominent figures of various religion has brought an understanding that though they are different in faith and belief, the similarity as a human being possessing rights of being treated equally should be a standard priority. Afterall they are all citizens of the United States. Daisy Khan mentioned that these forums has increased tolerance amongst them through unexpected ways. One of the most basic reason is food. Whoever holds meetings must be aware of dietary restrictions for each religion. For example the Jewish must follow kosher, and Muslim only consumes Halal food. Though very simple, this builds better understanding of eachother.

The second is Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow: “cultivating the next generation of Muslim leaders….the spokespersons and activists for peace and tolerance around the globe today”. MLT empowers young Muslim to become citizens who are sensitive towards one another and are tolerant towards differences that exist. Their figures are to be a role model to other Muslims as well as a face that represents Muslim in general. MLT holds annual conferences of which their members meet up and have debates and free-speeches concerning issues of interest. Each and every member are encouraged to speak up and boost their fellows in becoming a better leader.

The third activity is WISE (Women Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality). The program encourages Muslim woman to take part in their society and not “hide” behind their cultures. It also aims to teach Muslim women to segregate between Islam as a religion and the local custom of Saudi Arabia, hence giving somewhat more room for them to move around.

The discussion was continued with a question and answer session, which like all other USIPP sessions, were the most interesting. Daisy was asked about the 9/11 attack and her role after. She explained that after 9/11 Daisy and Imam Rauf received calls to attend University lectures, Television talkshows and school discussions  regarding what happened. To them, Daisy will say that Islam is a religion of tolerance and never intends to hurt someone that is not a Muslim as long as they do no harm. The people who were suspected as terrorists are definitely not a general Muslim. These people are out of the normal curve and really take it to the extreme. The attack they are doing under the name of Islam is considered wrong in Islam. Slowly but surely, Muslim regained its trust in the American society.

Daisy Khan has shown the world what it really means to be a Muslim. She is a strong women who stands high and firm for what she believes. One of the most memorable lines she said during the discussion is: “Alla Ta’ala gave us Aql, Koran, and Hadits, so we can decide for ourselves: what is right and what is wrong”

Thoughts and Comments

Allah Ta’ala Explained in the Koran And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful” [Ali Imran 3: 104]. My conclusion is that Daisy and Mr. Rauf had just done exactly that. Though I have to be honest and say that a few of her understandings of Islam is not the same as my paradigm, that does not mean I cannot appreciate what she has done for Islam and the world. She has exclaimed that Islam can do no harm, a peaceful religion that strives for tolerance and equality.

I came out from Daisy’s office with tears in my eyes. Knowing from that day on, I had someone to look up to. Daisy Khan is a remarkable person, from her I learnt how to represent Islam and be accepted as one. That sometimes, we have to fight. That sometimes, the hate and anger from other people is a sign they care… and a sign that we can do better.

Additional Notes

The meeting actually reminded me how hard it was to be a Muslim in a western country. I was in Australia during the first Bali Bombing. Right after the bomb, the Australian federal police came to my house (at 8 in the morning, right before school) to take my dad away. Of course, my dad was flawless and he was (going-to-be) arrested just for being the head of an Islamic Association in Perth (PPI-P). Fortunately the order to arrest wa aborted, but his name was still broadcasted in a national television station in Indonesia (RCTI) as a wanted person. Our telephone line was bugged for the next couple of months, until (I guess) my father was proven innocent. After the Bali Bombing, I decided to wear hijab. My mother thought it was a bad idea, she said I should wait until going back to Indonesia. I didn’t listen and proceeded to my elementary school headmaster who said it was fine. The reason behind this hijab is simple: I wanted to prove that (again) Muslim is areligion of peace and can do no harm. Not to boast, but I thought I was a fine representative, remembering that I was a 10-year-old tomboy who is love with sports. This of course gave a new new perspective to my environment that a hijab doesn’t always mean radicalism, but it simply means protection and belief. Though my circle understood, the general society didn’t and I often received unethical treatment, such as being swore on or spat on. Nevertheless, I have never been more proud of being a Muslim.

tulisan ini adalah bagian dari rangkaian cerita perjalanan USIPP 2011, soon to be a book :) amin

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