Thursday, October 9, 2014
Breaking the Silence
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves....."
Sabah was only 12 years old when she heard about the first honor killing. A young Muslim girl had became pregnant and when her family found out, they were outraged. Her selfish act had brought shame to the family and the community. In retaliation, the mother tied her hands behind her back and sat on her chest, while her brother strangled her to death!
After reading this horrifying account, Sabah was shocked, "What is going on? This is not Islam! My religion is a religion of peace!"
A few years later in 2004, Sabah was exposed to another honor killing, only this one hit way too close to home. She learned that the elder brother of one of her good friends had been murdered.
Unable to keep silent, Sabah stopped researching and began speaking out!
I first met Sabah on Twitter and since then we have become good friends. I invited her to be a guest on my radio program, "The Cross in the Desert." when I learned she was doing a screening of the powerful documentary film "Honor Diaries."
Sabah is a British Muslim with a Pakistani background. Several years ago she came to the United States and is currently a student at a University studying Biology.
Yet Sabah is much more than just a student pursuing a degree at a University. She is a very open-minded, outspoken and courageous Muslim woman who is unafraid to "break the silence."
When Sabah discovered other Muslim women were speaking out against honor killings and injustices committed against women in the "Honor Diaries," film, she realized that she had an obligation, a duty, to bring awareness to her own community.
While most non-Muslim students were shocked by the film, The Muslim community was not, instead they were outraged and offended. Sabah was called a "devil, an infidel" and was warned that showing this film could even cost her, her life!
Sabah confessed to me on my radio program that her emotions have been like a pendulum swing, "Did I do the right thing? Should I really be doing this?" The criticism and death threats have resulted in a great emotional toll on Sabah. At times she has felt lonely and depressed and wondered if she should continue. Yet despite the difficult challenges, Sabah has vowed to continue:
"I must speak up when I see injustices! I can't save the world, but maybe I can be like a ripple in the ocean. I will tell one person and they in turn will tell someone else...
Bringing awareness and education is the passion of Sabah's life. She is committed to making a difference in the lives of abused women in Muslim majority countries. Yet the challenges she faces is not limited to just the Muslim community. Sabah faces great challenges from her immediate family. While her father doesn't know about her activism, her mother does and is worried about her safety. In addition to that stress, Sabah had to hide her screening activities from her brother, since he goes to the same university that she does!
During our interview, I asked Sabah how she felt about ISIS and she immediately denounced them as "monsters" and not Muslims.
"I wish the ground would swallow up these monsters and take them down to the lowest hell!"
One of the biggest challenges that Sabah faces is the ongoing stereotypes about Muslims that is largely created by the media. She hates the stereotype that "All Muslims are terrorists" and is saddened by the suggestion that her religion is guilty of oppressing women!
"True Muslims would not oppress women. They cannot do that because our Prophet Muhammad taught that we should treat women and children like petals of a flower...."
I have nothing but admiration and respect for Sabah. She is one of the most courageous Muslim women that I have ever met! Despite the numerous threats and the fear of her brother finding out, Sabah courageously continues her battle for the rights of abused Muslim women. For Sabah, "real Islam" is a peaceful religion. "There is no compulsion in religion, "Sabah proclaims, quoting from the Quran.
At the risk of her life, Sabah will continue to speak out and be that "ripple" in the ocean bringing education and awareness to everyone who is willing to listen. What Sabah is doing is taught by the Bible. To her Muslim community, she is bringing fear and shame, but to the God of the Bible, she is bringing honor and glory through her activism.
Proverbs 31:9 instructs us to, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice!"
My prayer is that there will be more "Sabah's" who will speak up and not be silenced by fear. Sabah has broken the silence and as a result many lives will be saved by her courage and commitment!