Tuesday, May 02, 2006

MUKHTAR MAI ADDRESSES MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN STERLING, VA

(Washington, D.C. - 5/2/06) -- On Friday, April 28,more than 250 people attended an event featuring Mukhtar Mai at the ADAMS Center in Sterling, VA.Hosted by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, KARAMAH:Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, and the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, two-thirdsof those in attendance were women. Mai, who gained international recognition last yearwhen she was profiled by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff, is a symbol of courage to Muslim women around the world.

In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped in public on the orders of a village tribunal in retribution for a crime her younger brother allegedly committed. Defying social stigma, Mai refused to be silent and took the rapists to court. The perpetrators were initially convicted, but then acquitted by a second court. In June 2005, the Pakistani Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case and eventually convicted her attackers.

Mai subsequently became a symbol for advocates for the health and security of women in her region, attracting both national and international attention to these issues. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf awarded Mai a financial settlement of about $8,000, which she used to build two local schools, one for girls and another for boys. There were no schools for girls in Mai's village before this and she never had the opportunity to get an education.

In her remarks, Mai discussed her work in Pakistan to build both girls and boys schools as well as to buildroads, infrastructure and a health facility in her village of Meerwala in Pakistan. During the question and answer session, she talked about forgiveness and mentioned that the children of her assailants also were admitted to her school and that she did not hesitate to give them admission. Imam Mohamed Magid, who heads the ADAMS Center, welcomed Mukhtar Mai and talked about the importance of hosting such events at mosques and community centers across America to discuss pertinent issues like domestic violence and gender relations. "I have a message to the women of the world and allthe women who have been raped or any of the kind ofviolation: that, no matter what, they must talk about it and they must fight for justice," Mai has said. "I do feel that if I stop now or step back it will harm alot of women. So, I have to keep going and keephelping others."

Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, president of KARAMAH, delivered a motivational speech about women's rights as articulated in the Qur'an and urged Muslims to separate un-Islamic cultural practices from the true religion of God. The closing statement was given by MPAC Foundation Board member Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, who wrapped up the event by talking about a verse recited in the opening by MPAC's DC Operations Liaison Zuleqa Husain: "Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!"

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