Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I came to present the issue of women, but very unfortunately I didn't see many women in this conference. I'm not sure whom I should blame for that. Should I blame the conference's management that may have sent invitations "to men only"? Or, should I blame the men who said no to women? Or should I blame Woman herself that has said no to politics? I should blame every one of us.
In the future, when I attend any Middle-Eastern conference and see at least half of the number of attendants are women, I will then become optimistic that democracy in the Middle East is safe and sound.
Dear Coptic brothers, moderators of the conference and attendants: may God bless you with happy times.
Allow me in the beginning to express my thanks and appreciation to those who worked hard to bring into existence this conference which gives us much hope - and to those who honored me by inviting me and their insistence that I be with them today.
I specially thank Engineer Mr. Adli Abadeer, that man who's full of youth, vitality, and who possesses a strong, unafraid, brave voice.
Thanks Mr. Abadeer for the group of book volumes, that you sent to me as a gift, which tell about the history and achievements of the Copts. Thanks for your invitation to me to visit you, and I promise to repeat the visit in the near future.
And allow me also to present my thanks and appreciation to this great country that hosted us.
And allow me to deeply salute each American soldier, and each Iraqi citizen, that paid and pays from his blood in order to plant the first seed of freedom and democracy in our dear East.
I would like to point out that the following speech presents my own opinion and not necessarily that of the committee organizing this conference.
I'm wondering, right now as I stand in front of you today in this conference, and on this holy land. Holy for it is a land of human rights, and not because it's a land of prophets.
I'm wondering why we are here today. We're here today to get our heads out of the sand, and to face the light of truth, after being blinded by the sword of ignorance and myths for a period of 14 centuries.
No freedom exists with ignorance, and no justice exists with myths.
When religion becomes the measurement for your humanity - specifies your rights and draws the features of your freedom - you will undoubtedly conflict with that religion whenever you try to fly in the skies of your humanity, whenever you demand your rights, or try to enjoy your freedom. This is the case in the Middle East.
And if we decline to face this truth in this conference, we will not come up with results better than those of many conferences in the past.
In our Middle East, the dictatorship of the Ruler is not the root of the problem. But, rather, the root of every problem was and still is the dictatorship of religion. A seed of freedom can never plant where religion still is the only Master.
When I discuss this idea with any American citizen, he rejects my idea saying that freedom of religion is one of the most basic human rights.
The American and I are not different as to the fact that freedom of religion should be respected. However, I know that the understanding of religion in his country differs from the understanding of religion in my country, whereas he does not know this difference.
He understands religion to be the group of beliefs that organize the relationship between a person and his god, that is if he accepts to have a god, and does not pass the boundaries of that relationship, whereas in our countries, very unfortunately, religion interferes in every thing.
Therefore, the problem today, between Islam on one side and the world on the other side, is the difference in their understanding of religion. Both sides, in an effort to try to destroy terrorism – being the biggest problem in our time – have to agree on a new definition of religion. When the Muslim and the non-Muslim agree on the definition of religion, the Muslim will then back up to reconsider his teachings and beliefs.
Islam is not just a religion; Islam is a religion and a State. At the same time that we require respecting Islam as a religion, we strongly reject it as a State. We can never establish a state based on teachings that insist on rejecting the other, and even murdering him. The state that we want in our Middle East is a state for everybody, which does not differentiate between one citizen and another except by the amount of loyalty they have to their country and their humanity.
When religion occupies the role of programming the relationship between Man and his fellow brother, within solid, unchangeable boundaries, Man will not possess any rights or enjoy any freedom. In a state that blesses a faith that says, "Fight those who do not believe in Allah or his messenger," human rights can never be respected, nor can human freedom ever be safe, because that faith already denies him the right to not believe in Allah, not to mention his right to not believe in his messenger.
When Mr. George Bush says Islam is a religion of tolerance, he speaks out of his own understanding of religion in general, and not his understanding and knowledge of Islamic teachings. I know that his situation as a politician requires some diplomacy on his part. However, the repetition of such expressions, and coming from a leader of the greatest country in the world, limits our credibility. We, who abandoned our teachings, after discovering their negative effects on our lives and the lives of the coming generations. When he does that, he destroys in one moment what we secularists build in years.
Dear attendants: Secularists and minorities in the Middle East, today, live in a state of great fear. The thing they fear, surprisingly, is democracy, thinking that democracy means the rule of the majority; and the majority believes in the credibility of Islamic teachings, or laws. Our responsibility, people who live in democratic countries, and based on our own experiences, is to correct this incomplete understanding, and to relief those who fear democracy. Democracy indeed is the rule of the majority, but, in a democracy, no majority can ever deny Man any of his rights.
In a democracy, when I am in an opposition with my whole nation, I own the right to change it just as much as it owns the right to change me, and the stronger dominates.
In a democracy, a wrongful nation can never defeat a rightful woman.
Which of you does not know Ms. Rosa Parks? Ms. Rosa Parks is an American woman who died about two weeks ago. She lived in a time when blacks were second-class citizens. She stood at the face of the white man, shouting, “I am the one who grabs her right, and I don’t wait for you to give me that right!” refusing to leave him her seat in a local transportation bus.
She underwent terrible circumstances for what she did, but, in the end, she redrew the features of America, and entered history, adding one more name to history’s heroes defending human rights and freedom.
Copts have a long history of being oppressed and discriminated against, and they, before anyone else, must understand this fact: the fact that rights are taken and not given.
The one who has power will not give up his power easily, and the one who suffers from the oppression of that power is that which has, before anyone else, to struggle to get rid of the oppression.
We who are gathered in this conference have to have the courage it takes to open a new record in our history, in which we write the names of those who defend human rights and freedom in our countries which, I think, never knew such rights before, and where humans never enjoyed such freedom. We're the ones responsible to change the features of these countries.
The coming generations are a responsibility we bear. We don’t want them to inherit of the hate and grudge that we've inherited, out of mercy to them and to the whole world.
Minorities, as I mentioned, including secularists, fear democracy, and we might justify their fear when we hear the Islamic fundamentalists themselves, today, demanding democracy. That is the game they started playing, today.
But, this means no harm. It doesn’t matter who starts the game; what matters is who ends it. They started demanding democracy, which they think would ease their way into taking power. We have to end this game, not by avoiding democracy, but by even more democracy, in order not to allow them to monopolize power.
Yes, democracy may bring us problems, but we cannot solve those problems but by insisting on more democracy. These are the rules of the game, and we must let that be known.
Dear attendants; as a Muslim-born woman who lived and was raised in a Muslim environment, and in the context of the state of human rights and freedom (in general), I cannot but mention women's rights and freedom (in particular), which are considered as the gateway to every other right.
When we liberate women, we liberate the whole nation.
Freedom has many types. The type that matters to me, as a woman, here, more than any other, is to liberate Woman from the stereotype that religion disgraced her with, calling her "lacking of sanity, religion, and luck."
She has fallen for that stereotype to the extent that she glorified it until it became to her a way of life.
The ugliest type of slavery is when the slave thinks he is free. Women in our countries breathe from their slavery the breeze of their freedom. Logic has been twisted for them, so their slavery became their dearest freedom.
Correcting this logic does not occur but by separating state and religion, and by blessing an education that is always examined and qualified by science and not religion.
You can never liberate an ignorant woman; science is the only way to liberate her.
When she learns that she's a complete human value, she will do her best to prove that value.
How would you liberate a woman who defends to death her husband's right to beat her if she rejects to go to bed with him, before teaching her the ways of the bed, and the limits of her and his rights?
When Woman learns that she's a human value, she'll struggle to defend that value. But, as long as she gives in to the fact that Allah put her in the same category with dirt, in the way she dirties the man after ablution for prayer, she won't be able to cross the boundaries of that classification.
When I looked at Ms. Sajida al-Rishawi, who was supposed to blow herself up with her husband, in the Radisson Amman Hotel… when I looked at her, my anger lightened and a feeling of pity evolved inside me.
A creature put down by her beliefs to the level of an animal or maybe less. She was told, "Obey your husband, the way you obey your god!" and all she's done did not cross the limits of that obedience.
Her husband wrapped an explosive belt around her waist and told her, "Follow me!" and I am quite sure: they didn’t get any further with her in the investigations, because she doesn’t know any further.
During primary investigations, she told them, "We drove a white car from Iraq to Jordan." That’s all that resulted from the primary investigation, and I don’t expect it to result in anything of more significance, later.
A sheep driven to the slaughterhouse by the shepherd, and she follows him loyally and submissively.
She came to practice, with her terrorist husband, his terror, after making sure she got her headscarf on, which is needed to grant her entrance to the Garden of Eternity.
The question here is how are we going to restore humanity to these creatures? How are we going to return to them their minds and thoughts?
Our responsibility is to liberate those women, not only from their slavery, but from their belief that they're free. Our responsibility is to rehabilitate their minds and thoughts and to re-educate them.
Rehabilitation only happens with education. We need an educational system with which men of religion do not interfere. We want to eradicate religion from all pre-university educational books.
We want to build free minds that are unscratched by ancient fallacies. We want to build clean selves where no room there is for hate and grudge.
Dear attendants, in my deadly defense of Woman, I haven’t suffered from men the way I've suffered from women; they were the first to insult me, infidelize me, and call for my death. Nonetheless, I cannot take an opposing stand against them. They're my cause, they're the cross I carry on my back. I won't oppose them, and I'll support them until they recognize their value.
Let it be known to every woman in my country that when Allah is against women, I'll be against that Allah.
We the secularists, and every supporter to the case we're struggling for, today, are not able to go through this war by ourselves. The civilized, free, world, represented in the United States of America, must stand by our side and support us, by all its power, in order that we can get our deserved rights, or else victory will not be ours.
The world, today, is a small village. The American can not be safe in his house in Florida, unless the Egyptian is safe in his village in Upper Egypt. There's no safety in a country that does not respect the rights of every human, regardless of his religion, race, or nation.
As the greatest country, America is responsible to help us, and I, as a Syrian-American, truly believe in America's ability and its good will toward this mission.
Once more, I thank the moderators of this conference; I thank America, our host; and I thank the attendants. Victory be to our causes.