Muslim women in Cork enjoy centennial celebration

Muslim women hosted a special event in Ballincollig at the weekend, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
Muslim women in Cork enjoy centennial celebration

Faiza Shahid and her daughter Ayra, Dania Ahmad (presenter) , Kate Mc Carthy (Garda) , Mairéad Ní Mhurchú (Principal of Scoil Mhuire), Danielle Porter (Garda), Lord Mayor Deirdre Forde, Najia Malik (President AMWA Ireland) ,Michelle Sliney (Principal Coláiste Choilm) ,Nudrat Afshan( President AMWA South west Region ), Julie Murphy (CEO of WestGate ) , Elaine O'Rourke (Deputy Principal Scoil Eoin ) & Lord Mayor's Assistant.

AHMADI Muslim Women of Ireland held a centennial celebration event in Ballincollig Community Hall to commemorate the completion of 100 years of their women’s organisation.

The celebration was attended by 35 members and 10 guests, including Cork City Lord Mayor Deirdre Forde, members of An Garda Síochána, local school principals, and women from various backgrounds.

The event began with the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, followed by English and Irish translations.

After that, a presentation was given on the founding of the women’s organisation, its charitable work in Cork, and its efforts to promote integration in line with the slogan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association: “Love for All, Hatred for None.”

The Lord Mayor, Deirdre Forde, congratulated the Ahmaddiya women’s group and said: “Your ideas and your objectives are of the highest order. I want to commend you for playing your role and your part in making our community better in Ballincollig or wherever you are from throughout the city and the county. 

"I want to commend you for what you give back to us, to our citizens, and to our community. I wish you many happy years, and I hope I will have the opportunity of coming again.”

The National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association, Najia Malik said: “Many women and girls travel tens of miles to collect water for their families every day, which is often contaminated with dangerous pathogens. So, we have decided to donate 10 water pumps in Mali, providing clean and sustainable water, reducing disease, freeing families, and giving children back their childhood.”

The session concluded with a silent prayer, followed by lunch and gift distribution to all guests. The guests appreciated the Asian dinner and treats which were prepared by the members of AMWA.

AMWA has been working tirelessly to spread love, generosity, sisterhood, and peace around the world. All Ahmadi Muslims adhere to two guiding principles: honoring the rights owed to God and fulfilling the obligations toward God’s creation

The Lord Mayor with members of  the South west Region Ahmadi Muslim Women of Ireland.
The Lord Mayor with members of  the South west Region Ahmadi Muslim Women of Ireland.

A representative of the group, Ballincollig-based Faiza Shahid says women have an important role in this branch of Islam.

“The women of the community have a huge role and responsibility. We are responsible for the moral training of the next generation so that they grow up to be responsible members of society, giving back to their communities. Education and learning is promoted by the women.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a revival movement within Islam that was founded in 1889.

It is the only Islamic organisation that believes the Messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908).

“Jesus Christ was our prophet,” explains Faiza.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, born in India, “was sent by God” to end religious wars and reinstate morality, justice and peace. A century ago, Ahmad declared that an aggressive ‘Jihad by the sword’ has no place in Islam. In its place, he taught his followers to wage a bloodless intellectual ‘Jihad of the pen’ to defend Islam. With this goal, Ahmad wrote over 80 books and tens of thousands of letters as well as delivering lectures and taking part in public debates. His rational defence of Islam is a source of disquiet for conventional Muslim thinking. And the Ahmadiyya Community is the only Islamic organisation to endorse a separation of mosque and state.

Faiza says there are about 40 members of the Ahmadiyya group in Cork out of more than 3,500 Muslims here. She and her fellow members believe that Ahmad was the reformer of this age. Other Muslims are still waiting for the Messiah.

Born in Dubai, Faiza’s family have been members of the Ahmadiyya organisation since her grandfather joined it.

“The teachings of Islam are an integral part of my life.”

She adds that her beliefs give her clarity, peace and contentment as well as the drive to become a better person.

Islamic extremists have given the religion a bad reputation with terrorist atrocities carried out in the name of Islam.

Faiza said: “’Islam’ means peace. The terrorism is unrelated to Islamic teaching. Terrorism in the name of Islam is less than 50 years old despite the fact Islam is about 1,400 years old. There is a lot of evidence that (terrorist organisations) have a political objective. They justify their actions through political motives rather than religious ones. 

"The majority of Muslims worldwide live in peace and condemn terrorism because it’s not part of our teaching.”

With the world in a precarious state given the war in Ukraine, the conflict in Sudan and the rise of the far-right, Faiza says: “We are on the edge of World War III. We have to be peaceful, we have to talk to each other and control the situation.”

The Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde with AMWA members and other guests.
The Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde with AMWA members and other guests.

On the differing roles of the sexes, Faiza says that Islam places the responsibility for providing food, clothing and shelter on men.

“If the wife is earning, she can keep her money for herself. One of our members in Dublin is a primary school teacher. It’s difficult to get a job as a primary teacher if you are a Muslim in Ireland. Another female member, a Harvard graduate, is a professor of neuroscience in Dublin. All women in our organisation are allowed to work.”

Mother-of-two, Faiza, who is married to a German Muslim, chooses to stay at home to look after her children aged seven and nine.

Faiza wears a hijab and a long coat when she goes out. While the world was convulsed in anger when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in Iranian police custody following her arrest by the country’s ‘morality police’ for violating hijab laws, Faiza insists: “There is no law that punishes a woman for not wearing the headscarf. No-one has the authority to deliberately force a woman to wear a hijab.”

But why wear a hijab and Burqa at all?

“Women in my community are educated so they can understand the wisdom and benefits of the beautiful teaching of Islam in relation to modesty. Out of their own free will, they choose to follow the example of Mary, mother of Jesus, who is always shown covered modestly.

“I choose to cover myself. I actually feel more confident covered. I don’t have to worry about my physical appearance.

“I cover my head – but not my brain. Covering yourself completely is what modesty is all about.”

Islam’s goal is to “summon mankind to the one God almighty to spread the message of morality and righteousness”.

Faiza believes that death is followed by a day of judgement. She says that God/Allah is very forgiving.

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