Women Reborn CC member and Middle East women's peace activist Ibtisam Mahameed is proflied in this recent Interfaith Observer article by Ruth Broyde Sharone - "Ibtisam Mahameed: Not Afraid to Speak Out!"
Here are a couple of brief excerpts. Please see http://theinterfaithobserver.org/journal-articles/2012/3/15/ibtisam-mahameed-not-afraid-to-speak-out.html for the complete article.
Ibtisam’s journey towards women’s empowerment drew her into interfaith engagement. Na’amat, an Israeli Jewish women’s organization, was offering assertiveness training for women. She enrolled, meeting Christian, Jewish, and Druze women in the process. In the coming month, recognizing them as “sisters” in the cause for women’s empowerment, she bonded with them.
A passion for interfaith engagement developed. The same year she ran for office, she found herself traveling to Berlin to join a group of interfaith delegates at a global summit on peacemaking, organized by the United Religions Initiative (URI). The roommate chosen for her was Elana Rozenman, a Jewish woman from Jerusalem who became involved in peacemaking after her son was severely injured in a 1997 suicide bombing at a Jerusalem mall.
Ibtisam and Elana, strangers until that moment, spent four days together in Berlin. Elana explained to Ibtisam at the very beginning that, as an Orthodox Jew, she would not be able to turn on the lights in their room, from the time Sabbath began on Friday evening until Saturday at dusk. Also, she would not be able to spend any money during that period of time, but she told Ibtisam to be free to continue her life normally.
Ibtisam made an important decision at that moment which would impact her life from that moment on.
“I didn’t understand all of those rules about Elana’s Sabbath, and I thought them strange,” she admits, “but I decided that whatever Elana would do, I would do as well. So if she remained in the room in the dark, without light, I would also stay in that darkness with her. When she refrained from spending money, I also refrained. That was how I came to understand and respect the religious traditions of another person.”
Interfaith engagement and women’s empowerment are “serious business,” Ibtisam emphasizes. She is motivated by her belief in Allah, her great love for Him, her desire to serve, and a profound commitment to peace. “One of the reasons I became a peace activist is that I came to realize that there is no point to what's going on here,” in the Middle East. “Violence creates more violence. Killing after killing, until when will this circle of violence go on? I got to know about the people that are working on bringing the different sides together.”
Her serious business, though, does nothing to suppress Ibtisam’s dimples, her contagious laugh and quick wit. On her way back to Israel recently, after spending an intensive week in Arizona at a women’s empowerment program sponsored by Braveheart Women, Ibtisam brought her bags to the El Al counter at Los Angeles Airport. The Israeli woman security official questioned her closely, as El Al Airlines is famous for doing when you travel to Israel.
“Are you taking anything home that someone gave you?”
“No,” Ibtisam replied.
“Have you let your bags out of sight since you packed them?” the young woman asked.
“Do you have any weapons on you?”
“Only my tongue,” Ibtisam replied. The two women looked at one another for a long moment, then they both laughed.