Voice of the Muslims | Jamaican woman embraces Muslim faith
Just over a year ago, St Catherine Justice of the Peace Audrey Maragh abandoned her Christian familiarities to join the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith. At an international convention of the community in the United Kingdom last month, she delved into the Biat, a ritual to confirm her belief as an Ahmadi.
It has been a talking point for the people of Old Harbour weekly, as she dons her shayla headwear and disembarks her taxi at the entrance to the Old Harbour Road-based mosque to make her way to Friday prayers.
The anxiety is always triggered by the headwear and the mode of dress, then come questions about the segregation and suppression of Muslim women.
“The fact that I am not naked does not mean I am not free,” Maragh told The Sunday Gleaner.
She also insisted that there is equity in her religion.
“I am encouraged to get an education, I am encouraged to do whatever job I want, I am just encouraged to be the best I want to be. What is unliberating about that?” she questioned.
Sarah Khan, 36, who lives in London, was born an Ahmadi.
She concurred with Maragh.
“I found again and again examples of strong women who would speak out,” she said.
“Perhaps everyone would question, but I have no doubts.”
Toobah Khokhar, 19, admits that while growing up, she would question some of the comments in the media about women’s rights in the Muslim religion, and she said her enquiries were encouraged.
But do the Muslim women forecast changes in their religion that would seek to remove restrictions based on gender?
According Sarah, there is no need for this.
“In terms of teachings, they are adequate for now and they won’t need to be altered,” she said.
Khokhar would agree, saying Islam is a religion that is supposed to be for all times, including the 21st century, where social media is dominant.
“We are encouraged to participate in the modern world with our voice but still with the core values of Islam,” she said.
The matter of the segregation of Muslim women in worship and otherwise was also among the issues placed before the world head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
“They will never say because of segregation they are suppressed,” he said of women.
“They are free to move, to learn, to get their education, to do their activities and they are happy with this,” he told reporters from his London office.
At the same time, Maragh said she understands the sceptism about Muslim women in the Jamaican context.
“In Jamaica, a lot of people, when you say ‘Islam’, the only word that comes to mind is terrorism, and it’s going to take a while for that myth to go away – that Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorism is a crime that is carried out by whoever you are,” she said.