To the Aug. 22 letter writer who believes that liberals should be able to “freely talk about whether the hijab is sexist”: What we non-Muslims fail to realize is that for most Muslim women, covering their bodies is not forced on them by a repressive, male-oriented religion; it is a choice, freely made, and a sign of liberation from the dictates of a closed-minded Western society that equates freedom with baring all. To think otherwise is demeaning to Muslim women and assumes that they are not intelligent, independent people, able to think for themselves. As the feminist Muslim writer Maysan Haydar says in her essay “Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering,” for her (as for many Muslim women), covering is a choice, which allows her to be “seen as a whole person instead of a twenty-piece chicken dinner” and to be known for who she is — not for how she appears.
It’s time non-Muslims realize that Islam, just like Christianity and Judaism, is a religion open to interpretation and that the Qur’an states, “let there be no compulsion,” which means women are given the right to choose. We need to stop imposing our Western standards by assuming that if a Muslim woman covers, she must be oppressed. Ultimately, covering reflects their values, and to live among people who openly show their devotion enriches us all. Herein lies the value of a multicultural society: an appreciation of all our values — from modesty to openness and all forms of self-expression in-between — and an understanding that this is what real freedom is.
Rondi Atkin, Minneapolis
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About a decade ago, I attended an event hosted by a group of Muslim women who were sharing their custom of wearing the hijab with non-Muslims. I took the plunge and donned the scarf. Turns out there was nothing scary, sinister or even out-of-the-ordinary. It was exactly the same scarf that I wear in winter, just wrapped more effectively so that it doesn’t come unwrapped in the wind, as mine always does. Seems a pragmatic choice for Minnesota winters, though a bit hot (to my taste) on that summer day. Still, in a country such as ours, where women are free to dress as they wish, there’s room for an abundance of choices in head coverings.
The joy in the eyes of these Muslim women sharing their tradition was as genuine as the pride and appreciation in my Jewish mother-in-law’s eyes when I learned to recite a Hebrew prayer or bake a batch of unleavened popovers for Passover. (I come from a Catholic background.) In both instances, I was acting out of respect and appreciation for others and for what is important to them within the context of their lives. In so doing, I was demonstrating something from my own tradition: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
Lisa Wersal, Vadnais Heights
PREVENTING DOMESTIC ABUSE
Minnesota counseling law helps and should get a fuller buy-in
In response to “Man bought gun, killed family 3 weeks after wife called cops” (StarTribune.com, Aug. 15), I am ashamed of our legal system’s failure, which cost this family their lives. The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness in 2015 highlighted the severity of domestic abuse: “The reality is that the most dangerous time for a survivor/victim is when she leaves the abusive partner; 75 percent of domestic violence related homicides occur upon separation.”
In Minnesota in response to domestic abuse, Statute 518B.02 requires offenders to be court-ordered to participate in domestic abuse counseling programming. This programming provides re-education, teaching how to have healthy, violence-free relationships and to take accountability for actions. Additionally, it allows for an additional layer of monitoring of offenders to ensure victim safety.
As a social worker with experience in this programming, I can tell you the amazing impacts on offenders; life changes can be made! As a woman who has experienced domestic violence, I can tell you that there are gaps in the implementation of Statute 518B.02; although it is a law, there are no rules or overseeing body to govern enforcement, resulting in offender noncompliance. A local domestic violence counseling service boasts that “96 percent of program participants referred by Hennepin County have not reoffended after 1 year of completion [of] the program” (East Side Neighborhood Services, 2015). With these kinds of outcomes, I ask why legislators are not pushing for funding to promulgate rules and create 100 percent enforcement.
Sarah Callahan, Minneapolis
Charity watchdogs have something to say about this
An Aug. 25 letter writer (“Finances can be easily examined”) suggests we go to the Clinton Foundation website to get “all the information we want” regarding the foundation’s expenditures. He claims this will show that the Clintons do not receive compensation from the foundation. I prefer to look to the audit by the charity watchdog Charity Navigator.
The two largest charitable expenditures disclosed are the Clinton Presidential Library and the Clinton Global Initiative, neither of which are truly charities. Unlike most charitable organizations, the Clinton Foundation does not simply pass through the money it collects to the ultimate recipient. Instead it administers the funds itself. As a result, most of its expenditures are for travel and salary for the foundation’s employees. For that reason, Charity Navigator has placed the foundation on its watch list and has withheld its ratings, calling the foundation’s charitable activities an “atypical business model.”
As for how it uses the contributions it receives, the foundation’s 2013 tax filings show that of the $140 million in grants and pledges received, it spent only $9 million on direct aid. The bulk was spent on administration, travel, salaries and bonuses, mostly to family friends. Specifically, $8.5 million on travel, $4.8 million on office supplies, and $9.2 million on conferences and conventions. In fact, between 2011 and 2013, only 9.9 percent of the $252 million collected was spent on direct charitable grants. I wonder how many more lives would have been saved had those contributing to the foundation simply contributed directly to the individual charity, such as the Red Cross, United Way, Haiti Relief Fund, etc.?
Ronald Haskvitz, St. Louis Park
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Charity Watch gave the foundation an A because it spent 88 percent of its cash budget on programs for health, education for women and girls, economic development, etc. The Clintons took no money from the foundation and donated $1 million to it.
This compares interestingly with the Trump campaign. According to the Washington Post: “In all, nearly $7.7 million has been paid out to the Trump campaign or the Trump family members to cover campaign expenditures.”
John Sherman, Moorhead, Minn.
‘THE MARCH OF PROGRESS’
Religion, as exemplified by pope, has a role in planet’s future
Peter Leschak (“Metazoa’s arc,” Aug. 21), I suggest you read, if you haven’t already, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. It is based on all the science available about global warming and goes on to say what we can do about it now. Not only is it scientifically based, but it draws from wisdom garnered from ancient times and cultures about how we should treat the Earth, and one another. Like you, Francis calls on us all to use whatever gifts we have with “all our hearts and minds and souls” to bring about the changes needed to alter our current trajectory toward what could be total destruction. Let’s hope that his words will not “continue to wane,” but motivate enough of us to wake up to our best selves and, like good Minnesotans, “do what has to be done” (Garrison Keillor).
Jo Youngren, St Anthony