In honor of International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated annually on March 8th, the Multi Faith Center hosted “Faith on the Margins.” The event was an online space of conversation to discuss the intersections of gender, sexuality and religion. The panel consisted of Dr. Maryam Khan, Reverend Dr. Cheri DiNovo and Rabbi Ariella Rosen who answered a series of questions about their own experiences within their respective faiths.
Question One: Introductions: Can locate your approach to your faith/ spirituality/ religion?
The session began with an introductory question, allowing the panelists to provide some background information about themselves and their perspectives on the subject of religion and spirituality.
Rev. DiNovo kicked off the discussion and she emphasized her focus on inclusion and her belief in the importance of inclusive Christianity. Rabbi Ariella posited that she fits in the middle of a spectrum of religious practice, adhering to traditional Jewish law while upholding and pushing for necessary changes and adaptations. Dr. Khan emphasized the necessity of focusing on intersections of religion and sexuality and a desire to create and uplift the lives of Queer Muslims through intentional work – “building bridges across difference and across sameness.”
Question Two: Given that the history of IWD is rooted in social activism, can you highlight some of your own stories related to social activism from your life/ experience?
In answer to this question, Rev. DiNovo cited her experience getting dragged out of City Hall for protesting having to pay to hold IWD celebrations. Her involvement with activism also includes fighting for women’s rights on issues such as equal pay, among others. Rabbi Ariella referenced her experience protesting on the streets in a very traditional sense but she also emphasized the importance of showing up for yourselves and community in whatever way you are able, whether that’s visible or quieter. She spoke to the importance of embracing your power as an individual as a form of activism. In her words, part of her work is “being a role model by being myself and talking about it even when it feels uncomfortable.”
Dr. Khan cites social activism as a source of both joy and anxiety due to the importance of visibility to the cause and the reality of community pressure. In the case of the Muslim community Dr. Khan references that there are barriers to representation and visibility. Activism, in such a context and especially for queer Muslims, becomes impacted by politics of representation in order to ensure safety. The answers to this question were so inspiring and eye-opening to the importance of social work and the immense value of those who do that work. The idea that living your truth boldly and proudly is a form of activism is something that I find incredibly empowering.
All three panelists emphasized the importance and necessity of creating an inclusive and welcoming religious space that encourages truly and honestly existing with oneself and other individuals. Rabbi Ariella highlighted that while advocating for personal beliefs, it’s equally important to show up for other groups. Dr. Khan also posited the importance of and necessity for a physical space for different groups, particularly marginalized groups, where people can gather together and create a space of community.
Considering the future of IWD, the panel advocated the need to assess the function of different spaces, ensuring that these spaces exist and consciously meet the needs of the group they support or the purpose they were created for.
This was a truly inspiring session and a perfect way to celebrate International Women’s Day 2022!