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Courageous voices

These women stood up to speak out against radical fundamenatalism in the middle east and in the world:

“We must speak out now, because we’ve got nothing to lose,” said Dr. Wafa Sultan, one of four Middle Eastern women taking part in a panel discussion in Montreal yesterday to argue their position on the West’s response to Islam.

The four were keynote speakers at an Institute of Public Affairs of Montreal conference. They talked before the event about the place of women under the yoke of an increasingly fundamentalist Middle East.

[ . . . ]

Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a former Miss Canada, has been leading an international effort to publicize the plight of an 18-year-old Tehran rape victim sentenced to death under sharia law. Afshin-Jam recalled a peaceful rally held in Iran in which the protesting women were dispersed by extremist, heavily veiled women.

“They feel more powerful,” she said of the veiled women.

Sultan said many Muslim women are not freely choosing to wear the veil, but do so because it’s in their best interest.

Islam has other ways of enforcing a bias against women, Afshin-Jam said: “In Iran, 65 per cent of university students are women but the laws say women are not allowed to be judges.”

And under sharia law, it’s very difficult for a woman’s word to be taken seriously, she said.

In the West, “we cannot afford to lose our cherished freedoms to radicalism,” Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian, told the conference audience later in a Delta Hotel meeting room.

We often wonder where the voices are, speaking out against oppression and injustice. They exist; there are too few of them so far, they tend to get drowned out, and those who speak sadly – in this country where freedom of speech is cherished – often fear legitimately for their personal safety. But more and more, they exist. And we owe it to them to listen to what they have to say. Because the more people speak out, the more courageous the next people will feel… and the next… and the next.

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