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Usually at the end of the year I pen my thoughts about travels and excitement, journeys to the center of my soul etc. However this year (2015) has been more serious than previous years – the tipping point was reached. These are the highlights and low lights of the year for me presented straight from the hip minus political correctness which I gave up a long time ago. In all 2015 was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. As December 31 arrived, I had an early evening so I could rejuvenate body and soul to take on the fresh challenges of 2016 with a smile.
• From a film shown globally, Honor Diaries turned into a movement with many stunning and positive results. I travelled to almost 100 screenings all over North America speaking about the film to expose, educate and empower women and men as well as conducting workshops. In Canada every Member of Parliament was sent a copy of the movie and a law (Bill S-7) was passed about zero tolerance against ‘Barbaric’ practices. In some African countries as well laws were passed banning the practice of FGM. We were able to bring on Campus Ambassadors who are now working in their educational institutions to create awareness. Most importantly, Honor Diaries was screened in Muslim countries like Pakistan, Egypt and Tunisia with great feedback. The Arabic facebook page got more than half a million likes and the demand for screenings continues unabated.
• In November we hosted the first Censored Women’s Film Festival (CWFF) in Washington DC in collaboration with George Washington University. It was an extremely well attended and successful event where I had the honor and pleasure of meeting young activists and film makers like Leyla Hussein: Anti-FGM Activist, The Cruel Cut, Zainab Khan: President, Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA), Riddhi Jha: Associate Producer, India’s Daughter , Neena Nejad director of The Price of Honor; plus Aruna Papp, Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs, Gender Program Director, Population Reference Bureau, Janice Kovach: Mayor, Clinton, NJ, Leslie Jacobson: Chair, GWU Department of Theater and Dance and Dr. Mary Ellsberg: Director, Global Women’s Institute. We have stayed in touch looking for more ways to change the world for women so they can change the world.
• Other women who have taken up the battle against radicalization are also on the move. Qanta Ahmed, Shireen Qudosi, Asra Nomani, Salma Siddiqui, Supna Zaidi, Raquel Saraswati, Farahnaz Isphahani to name a few.
• Honor Diaries won many awards including the prestigious Free Speech Award.
• In December we launched The Muslim Reform Movement at a press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington DC. Here we bonded with movers and shakers i.e. reform minded Muslims from America, Canada, UK and Europe.
• While we were in Washington, we heard the horrible news of the terrorist attacks in San Bernadino, where a woman was involved. For many of us this was the tipping point and it made us resolve to speak out against Radical Islamist terrorism without political correctness.
• In 2015 I visited Israel again and every time I go there I am amazed at the progress and development. This is a dynamic country with dynamic people from diverse backgrounds. I met Jewish Sufis who inspired me immensely.
• In May I was invited to speak at Tedx Amsterdam where I received a standing ovation for my talk from the heart. It just reinforced my faith in truth and justice
• Later in the year Trump made his offensive statement about Muslims being banned from USA. It got people talking and the Presidential debate in USA started focusing on this issues.
• One high light of the year was to meet Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam Foundation who was on a visit to Canada and took time to come and meet us. We spoke of common goals and it was heartening to find solidarity with others fighting the same battle of ideas.
• In the wake of San Bernadino, many Muslim organizations in North America decided to come together at a press conference to speak out against terrorism (dare I say they tried to copy us by using the same venue as the launch of the Muslim Reform Movement!). Even the ones affiliated with The Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism speak out against terrorism, but not ONE of them had the guts to categorically denounce armed Jihad and support separation of Mosque and State or support equal rights for all. Most of their rhetoric is to promote the victim mentality
• In Canada Syrian Refugees were welcomed with warmth and gusto which we all support from the humanitarian perspective and makes us proud Canadians. However there were also questions raised about the manner in which they were welcomed with Arabic songs and an immediately segregated area in which to pray. Some suggested it might help them settle better if they saw the reality of Canada which is not about segregation but integration.
• On the refugee issue, it’s important that along with the humanitarian cause, we should be cautious about screening as we know that along with those who genuinely need help, there are mercenaries who will use this as a way to get into the West where their subversive agendas can be implemented.
• A thought needs to be given to the Yazidis and persecuted Christians who have no home to go back to and need to be helped with the same zeal as others.
• The documentary By the Numbers, narrated by me, was launched early December and within two weeks it had more than two million views. The feedback was surprisingly positive from across North American including many Muslims . There were also disturbing responses which ranged from sublime to the ridiculous. One guy wrote “…and Allah will ask you “what the f—k are you doing?” I think to myself about his image of Allah……God help him. I also received a death threat from a UK vigilante group that acts like the Sharia police. However the knee jerk reaction of many shows that it hit a chord. We no longer have the luxury to live in denial and be victims as part of the multi-billion dollar Victim-ology and Islamophobia industry is trying to market to Muslims.
• The Islamophobia industry has also consistently targeted some of our friends and supporters who have helped give liberal, progressive Muslims a platform and a voice.