Tag Archives: Asra Nomani

Asra Nomani – Part three of three

When Asra asked me what role I take to ensure that my son is not brought up to perpetuate gender inequality I couldn’t easily answer. First of all, as I stood in line I was not preparing for what I would say to her.  I had only anticipated small talk with Asra as she signed my book.  It seems to me that in the Unites States, book signings are not a time to speak to your audience; it is a time to keep the line moving so that the sales of your book will increase.  In that way I was expecting a traditional, superficial dialogue where she would ask me my name and write, “To Alicia:  Best Wishes, Asra”.  She didn’t write that.  She wrote this:

Dear Alicia,

For the divine love that guides us in the children in our lives.  They are our compass.

With Love,



Dear Alicia,

For your lifelong pursuit of knowledge, you will only grow more beautiful.

With Warmth,


I had a long line behind me and she took no notice.  At that moment she treated me as if I was the most interesting person in the world.  This inevitably meant I would have nothing of interest to say.  She inquired about my life, my pursuit of education and my family.  In response to her question about influencing my son positively about gender inequality I said, “Um, um” for about 10 seconds.  A serious Toastmaster’s violation. 

And here is the brilliance I bestowed upon her:

“Uh, yesterday, when um, my son came home from school… he um said that his bike “squeaked like a girl”.  And um, I told him that uh if he ever said that again that he’d be punished.” 

That’s 5 um’s for the Toastmaster “um counter”. 

She just smiled.

Not my most polished response. 

As I was walking out of the door, silently congratulating myself for that brilliant response I realized that there was a reason I was stumbling.  I don’t think of gender inequality with any frequency.  I don’t have to. 

Now don’t get me wrong, as an HR professional it makes my blood boil if there is a difference in pay simply because of a gender difference.  I am grateful that our president is taking that matter seriously with legislation to prevent it from happening.  Likewise, if a man ever suggested that I could not do something simply because I am a woman, it is likely that I would get that stupid strength that is fed by adrenaline and then lift my refrigerator right up over my head and bop him with it.  Then I would stand over him and ask, “What man can do THAT?”

Now my life is riddled with gender roles.  In my house, I am the appointee to prepare the daily feast and my husband is the appointee to mow the lawn.  We are both qualified to switch roles should the other quit (little do they know that is a very real possibility on my end) but we simply lack the desire.  I have no more interest in mowing our lawn than I do of eating something that my husband threw together for dinner.  If that is too “sexist” well then so be it.  I am comfortable with it, because on most days, I do not feel as though I am taken advantage of.

So I didn’t have a good answer for Asra and I still don’t.  That is because I am privileged in ways I cannot even begin to comprehend. I have not had her challenges.  I have not had doors closed to me because of my gender so I can’t relate to that question.  The men in my life have been by and large loving and respectful.

If I could answer her now, I would say that I hope that my son sees enough in his life to be shaped in a way that he will not perpetuate gender inequality and that my goal is to guide him on that path each day.

With an endless list of things to be thankful for in my life I now have a new one.  The next time I am in church I am going to give thanks because I can go there and stand next to my husband and my son.  I sure am thankful my husband is there.  I need him to help me keep the boy in line through an hour long sermon.

Leave a comment

Filed under adult education, No Adult Left Behind

Asra Nomani – Part Two

When Asra Nomani finished her speech she allowed offered a question and answer session.  Angry members of the audience took this opportunity to voice their opposition against Asra and her mission.  At first I was annoyed because of the rude nature of their questioning and then all at once I became very afraid.  I remembered the distracted guard.  I heard noises that indicated that the main entrance was not the only point of entry and perhaps someone could have slipped in the side door that would have terrible intentions.  I tried to calm myself with the fact that I have an exceedingly active imagination and I was in no real danger.  I just did not feel safe. My gaze darted around the room in paranoia as I tried to distinguish if anyone among the sea of faces would be the person that would intend to make good on their death threat against Asra Nomani. 

I have wondered often what people are thinking of right before they are victim to violence or terrorism.  Are they at peace?  Do they have a sense of foreboding?  With death as a certainty in each of our lives we may imagine what will lead to that event.  Do the victims of an attack say “Oh, this is it.  This is how I am meant to go.”  Because I thought that.  I wondered if Asra Nomani had thoughts of her own running through her head each time she led a discussion. 

My professor was the host for the evening.  He diplomatically wrapped up the Q&A session when he felt that it was appropriate.  As people filed out and fished for their car keys with the intention to return to their lives I felt the apprehension lift from me.

The evening ended with the only harm being at the hands of my own imagination.  I bought both of her books and stayed behind to have her sign my copy.  She spoke to me as she signed my book.  She asked me about myself and learned quickly that I had a son a year younger than her own. 

She looked deep into my eyes and asked me what role I take to ensure that my son is not brought up to perpetuate gender inequality.

Good question.


Filed under adult education, No Adult Left Behind

Asra Nomani – Part One

This semester I had the privilege of meeting Asra Nomani. In my Media Ethics class, all students were required to attend a speech hosted by Asra Nomani. I had not heard of her, but she was a friend of someone I had heard of – Daniel Pearl. If you remember, Daniel Pearl was the American man that had been kidnapped and murdered during his visit to Pakistan. Daniel and his wife were staying with Asra when he was kidnapped.

Asra Nomani came to our college to speak to us about her life and her mission. She is rebelling against the gender discrimination that dominates her religion as a Muslim. Our professor indicated that because her beliefs are widely unacceptable among Muslims she is unpopular in some circles and has created some enemies. Because she has had several threats against her life, our professor was going to see that our college provided increased security on the night that she arrived.

Well alrighty then. Sounds great! Sign me up for that speech.

On the night of Asra Nomani’s speech, despite arriving 50 minutes early, it was difficult to find parking and I had to hike in a considerable distance in the rain to the auditorium. I observed a paid guard who did not see me approach because he had his back to me while he was texting. Once I reached him, he was startled and opened the door for me only to abruptly return to his previous preoccupation.

Once inside, I found a seat and settled in. It was prudent to arrive so early because it was already crowded and eventually each crevasse of the auditorium was filled in a “standing room only” fashion.

Asra was an amazing speaker. She spoke in a soft distinction that demanded silence from her audience because we did not wish to miss a word. She was as honest and pure as a summer rain. I sat mesmerized hanging on each word as she spoke of her friendship with Daniel Pearl, his tragic murder and the events of her life that has led her to be a passionate pioneer seeking gender equality in her Mosque and in all aspects of her Muslim religion.

As a Catholic, I have all I can do to practice my religion and provide a religious framework for my son. Unless I am on my own terms speaking to God in the comfort of my own environment, I see religion as a bit of an obligation. What fascinated me is that Asra Nomani was in love with her religion. It was this love that was a motivating factor for her to explore deeper and take out the gender segregation that was against the core of the Muslim beliefs. She spoke of her protests and her following with a sparkle in her eye because she believes that one day she will find a peaceful coexistence in prayer with all members of her mosque that will show love and acceptance without distinction for gender.

I admire Asra Nomani because she has a courage that awes me. At the conclusion of her speech she received lavish, sincere applause from most of the audience. It was a wonderful experience. At the conclusion of the speech she hosted question and answer session.

That is when the magic ended for me.


Filed under adult education, No Adult Left Behind