UNITED NATIONS: The deadly terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand was “another grim reminder” of the Islamophobia sweeping the world, a senior Pakistani diplomat told delegates attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women — a global gathering of women activists at which Pakistan played an active role.
Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, was speaking at a side-event on “Breaking Stereotypes: Muslim Women as agents of change”, one of the four organized by her that made an impact on what is also called the “women activists’ summit.”
The Pakistani envoy linked the attack to stereotyping, which she argued can be seriously consequential as it can lead to misperceptions, demonization and even violence.
“It’s a slippery slope when Muslims are stereotyped and mischaracterized , sometimes deliberately by those who also engage in hate speech,” Ambassador Lodhi said.
She distinguished between culture and religion in asserting that for Muslim women Islam is an enabling agent , not an impediment as is often presumed in Western narratives. The barrier are patriarchal social structures and overall lack of education in societies.
The annual meeting of the Commission, which dates back to 1947, brought to the UN more than 9,000 representatives from civil society organizations. It will conclude on March 22.
Pakistan’s single person delegation was led by Khawar Mumtaz, who delivered her national statement on Friday.
The event on ‘Breaking Stereotypes’, a brainchild of Ambassador Lodhi, attracted a large audience with people prepared to stand throughout the hour and half event.
About her own professional journey as a Muslim woman, she said this involved facing obstacles, overcoming fears but always dreaming dreams. “My professional path”, Ambassador Lodhi said, “constantly entailed challenging, defying and overcoming stereotypes.”
“This almost becomes a lifetime occupational hazard for women, and not just in the Muslim world. “The important thing is never to allow this to distract or diminish us.
Women , she said , have two choices when confronted with attitudes shaped by stereotypes or when facing barriers: either seethe with resentment or press ahead vigorously to make a difference. Anger , she said , is not a strategy.
Other speakers from Indonesia , Turkey Qatar and Iran echoed the view that for Muslim women , faith was no barrier; indeed throughout Islamic history women have played prominent public roles. A correct reading of religion showed that Islam was an enabling factor for women to pursue professional roles
A lively question answer segment followed presentations by the panel of speakers. The session was ably moderated by Pakistani American Professor Ameena Zia.
Participating in the side-events were Parliamentarians who were here to attend the meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) hearings. They included Munazza Hassan , MNA , Ehsanullah Tiwana, Sassui Palijo and Shahla Raza.
Pakistan’s presence during CSW’s first week was also visible in the standees that were displayed across UN HQ depicting women who had made and changed history in Pakistan.
The colourful standees included Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jahangir , Sharmeen Obaid and Malala Yusufzai among others.
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