[Anse Tamara was a guest speaker at The Parliament of World Religions held in Salt Lake City, Utah. The following is her speech at the Plenary – Faith in Women on Oct 16]
I am honored to speak in front of an audience of God Lovers. We are each a sign of the absolute truth of Divine goodness as we have all felt God in one way or another.
I am a Muslim. I am a woman. I am a leader. My title is Anse – meaning teacher – and my name is Tamara Gray.
In my years of teaching, counseling and working I have learned that a Faith leader is unique, and especially a female faith leader – because she always has a LAP.
She always has a lap where other women can be nurtured, where children can be taught, and where men can find guidance.
A Leader has a LAP
L is for learning. Muslim women are the most educated of all faith groups in North America. We are engineers, doctors, lawyers, academics, therapists, policy makers, activists and – as Amanda on Master Chef demonstrated – darn good cooks.
L is for learning. Ribaat Academic Institute is reviving the female voice of scholarship. Our students study sacred texts, heritage texts, and western thought and we are backed by the only accredited all female Hadith school in the world.
L is for learning. Daybreak Press gave rise to women’s voices when we published three books by Muslim women authors last year. A poetry book about a year in the spiritual journey of one young woman, a fiction book about an American Muslim girl, and my book – Joy Jots, which is a series of essays designed to help bring joy back into the lives of Muslim women across the world.
A Leader has a LAP
A is for Activism. In school districts across America Muslims either do not find representation or find broken images of Muslim women that they do not recognize. In the world of diversity books, positive books about Muslims are harder to find than warm weather in January in Minnesota. So Najiyah Maxfield wrote Sophia’s Journal, a story about a young American Muslim girl. So far four schools in Minnesota carry the book and we are hoping that many more will follow.
A is for Activism. The Fiqh Council of North America issued a statement this year insisting that all Mosques be women friendly and welcoming. They asked me and other North American Scholars to sign and I did. The tide of ‘Mosques for men” is shifting and Mosques across America are becoming Mosques for All of Us.
A is for Activism. Daybreak Global Bookshop and Gathering Space opened in September 2014 and has sponsored interfaith and social justice events such as the play “God Girl” at the Minnesota history theatre, the Cultural Circles movement out of Chicago, and an ecumenical Christmas celebration that celebrated the sacred life of Mary, mother of Jesus
A Leader has LAP
P is for Praise. There is a special prayer prayed in the last hours of the night. It is called tahajjud. Through our project, Circles of Light, Muslim women around the world are using modern technology to wake each other up from one time zone to the next. We call it the tahajjud revolution.
P is for Praise. Last Ramadan women gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota for Daybreak Days. We spent the day reciting Quran and the nights in joint prayer. We prayed in a hushed room, on a thick spongy floor, shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart. We prayed for each other, we prayed for ourselves, and we prayed for the entire world that God would lift oppression and ugliness and replace it with the freedom and beauty of Faith.
P is for Praise. SubhanAllah, al-Hamdulilah, la ilaha illa Allah. Glory be to God. Praise be to God. Naught is there to be worshipped but God.
A leader has a LAP
When we stand up, we have a lap.
When we march, we have a lap.
When we run, we have a lap.
We lead with learning, activism and praise. We have a LAP.
I ask you to either find a LAP to be nurtured in, or to offer yours to those in need.
Thank you and Assalam alaikum.