Bahai News - 400 women gather to support Muslims facing harassment
Published Friday, Oct. 5, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News
400 women gather to support Muslims facing harassment
MEMBERS OF MANY FAITHS ATTEND SANTA CLARA VIGIL; MOST COVER
BY RICHARD SCHEININ
Ameena Jandali looked stunned as she stood on a makeshift podium and stared
at the 400 women gathered before her in a sunbaked Santa Clara parking lot.
Stunned by their numbers, and even more stunned that most of the women
-- including Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais and Sikhs -- had
covered their heads in solidarity with Muslim women who have suffered
harassment in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
``I should have brought my Kleenex,'' Jandali, a Muslim educator, said.
Jandali explained that the wearing of a Muslim hijab -- a head
covering or modest dress, head to toe -- is very much ``in the tradition
of Roman Catholic nuns who cover themselves out of modesty or of Orthodox
Jewish women who cover their heads. Thank you for joining us in sisterhood,''
She spoke at the Granada Islamic School, where about 50 students, all girls,
stood on the podium and soaked up the show of support. Those who addressed
the ``Women of Faith in Solidarity Against Hate Incidents'' included Muslim
college students, a nun, a rabbi, a Methodist bishop and Santa Clara Mayor
The event was organized to confront the backlash against American Muslims
and Arabs and others perceived to be members of those groups. In particular,
it was held to support Muslim women who wear traditional dress and suddenly
Sponsors included the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose; the Council of
Churches of Santa Clara County; the Muslim Community Association; the Silicon
Valley Region of the National Conference for Community and Justice; the San
Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin; the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of San
Jose; the Interfaith Council on Religion, Race, Economic and Social Justice;
and the Islamic Networks Group.
`Most shocking scene'
Jandali told the crowd that she woke up on Sept. 11 and turned on her
television to witness ``the most shocking scene that I have ever seen.''
It happened to be her young daughter's first day of school. Later that
morning, Jandali, who wears a head covering and full-length robe, found
herself fearing for her daughter's safety amid news reports that the
terrorists were from the Middle East.
Hebah Salem, a student at Foothill College, told the audience that she
stayed in her home for two weeks after the attacks. ``I wanted to hide. I
Jana Abdelgawad, a De Anza College student, said motorists screamed and
glared at her yesterday. But finishing her remarks, Jana, 16, said, ``God
bless America, and thank you all.''
Prayers for victims
Prayers were spoken for those who died in the attacks, and blessings were
recited in Hindi, Arabic and Hebrew. And there were all kinds of hijabs.
Jean Quinn, a member of the local Bahai assembly, wore one of purple
silk. Rabbi Melanie Aron, of Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos, wrapped
a floral-patterned scarf about her head. Gertrude Welch, a Methodist and
social justice activist in Santa Clara County for 50 years, covered her
hair with a black scarf, crocheted at the edges.
``It's not unlike during the second world war when the King of Denmark put
on the Star of David as a way of saying, `We are all Jews,' '' said Sister
Elizabeth Avalos, president of the Human Concerns Commission of the Roman
Catholic Diocese. ``This is something like that, that if you're going to
harass Muslim women, you're going to have to harass all women.''
©Copyright 2001, The Mercury News
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