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So on my way here, the passenger next to me and Ihad a very interesting conversation during my flight. He told me, “It seems likethe United States has run out of jobs, because they’re just making some up: cat psychologist, dog whisperer,tornado chaser.” A couple of seconds later, he asked me, “So what do you do?” And I was like, “Peacebuilder?” (Laughter) Every day, I work to amplifythe voices of women and to highlight their experiences and their participation in peaceprocesses and conflict resolution, and because of my work, I recognize that the only way to ensurethe full participation of women globally is by reclaiming religion. Now, this matter is vitallyimportant to me. As a young Muslim woman,I am very proud of my faith. It gives me the strength and convictionto do my work every day. It’s the reason I can be herein front of you. But I can’t overlook the damage that hasbeen done in the name of religion, not just my own, but allof the world’s major faiths. The misrepresentation and misuseand manipulation of religious scripture has influenced our socialand cultural norms, our laws, our daily lives, to a point where we sometimesdon’t recognize it. My parents moved from Libya,North Africa, to Canada in the early 1980s, and I am the middle child of 11 children. Yes, 11. But growing up, I saw my parents, both religiously devoutand spiritual people, pray and praise God for their blessings, namely me of course, but among others.(Laughter) They were kind and funny and patient, limitlessly patient, the kind of patiencethat having 11 kids forces you to have. And they were fair. I was never subjected to religionthrough a cultural lens. I was treated the same, the same was expected of me. I was never taught that Godjudged differently based on gender. And my parents’ understanding of Godas a merciful and beneficial friend and provider shaped the wayI looked at the world. Now, of course, my upbringinghad additional benefits. Being one of 11 children is Diplomacy 101.(Laughter) To this day, I am askedwhere I went to school, like, “Did you go toKennedy School of Government?” and I look at them and I’m like, “No, I went to the Murabit Schoolof International Affairs.” It’s extremely exclusive. You would haveto talk to my mom to get in. Lucky for you, she’s here. But being one of 11 childrenand having 10 siblings teaches you a lot aboutpower structures and alliances. It teaches you focus; you haveto talk fast or say less, because you will always get cut off. It teaches you the importanceof messaging. You have to ask questions in the right wayto get the answers you know you want, and you have to say noin the right way to keep the peace. But the most important lessonI learned growing up was the importance of being at the table. When my mom’s favorite lamp broke,I had to be there when she was trying to find out how and by who,because I had to defend myself, because if you’re not,then the finger is pointed at you, and before you know it,you will be grounded. I am not speakingfrom experience, of course. When I was 15 in 2005,I completed high school and I moved from Canada — Saskatoon — to Zawiya, my parents’ hometown in Libya, a very traditional city. Mind you, I had only ever beento Libya before on vacation, and as a seven-year-old girl,it was magic. It was ice cream and trips to the beachand really excited relatives. Turns out it’s not the sameas a 15-year-old young lady. I very quickly became introducedto the cultural aspect of religion. The words “haram” –meaning religiously prohibited — and “aib” — meaningculturally inappropriate — were exchanged carelessly, as if they meant the same thingand had the same consequences. And I found myself in conversationafter conversation with classmates and colleagues, professors,friends, even relatives, beginning to question my own roleand my own aspirations. And even with the foundationmy parents had provided for me, I found myself questioningthe role of women in my faith. So at the Murabit Schoolof International Affairs, we go very heavy on the debate, and rule number one is do your research,so that’s what I did, and it surprised me how easy it was to find women in my faithwho were leaders, who were innovative, who were strong — politically, economically,even militarily. Khadija financed the Islamic movement in its infancy. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her. So why weren’t we learning about her? Why weren’t we learning about these women? Why were women being relegatedto positions which predated the teachings of our faith? And why, if we are equalin the eyes of God, are we not equal in the eyes of men? To me, it all came back to the lessonsI had learned as a child. The decision maker, the personwho gets to control the message, is sitting at the table, and unfortunately,in every single world faith, they are not women. Religious institutionsare dominated by men and driven by male leadership, and they create policiesin their likeness, and until we can changethe system entirely, then we can’t realisticallyexpect to have full economic and political participation of women. Our foundation is broken. My mom actually says, you can’t builda straight house on a crooked foundation. In 2011, the Libyan revolution broke out,and my family was on the front lines. And there’s this amazing thingthat happens in war, a cultural shift almost, very temporary. And it was the first time that I feltit was not only acceptable for me to be involved,but it was encouraged. It was demanded. Myself and other womenhad a seat at the table. We weren’t holding hands or a medium. We were part of decision making. We were information sharing.We were crucial. And I wanted and neededfor that change to be permanent. Turns out, that’s not that easy. It only took a few weeks before the womenthat I had previously worked with were returning backto their previous roles, and most of them were drivenby words of encouragement from religious and political leaders, most of whom cited religious scriptureas their defense. It’s how they gained popular supportfor their opinions. So initially, I focused on the economicand political empowerment of women. I thought that would leadto cultural and social change. It turns out, it does a little,but not a lot. I decided to usetheir defense as my offense, and I began to cite and highlightIslamic scripture as well. In 2012 and 2013, my organizationled the single largest and most widespreadcampaign in Libya. We entered homes and schoolsand universities, even mosques. We spoke to 50,000 people directly, and hundreds of thousands more throughbillboards and television commercials, radio commercials and posters. And you’re probably wondering howa women’s rights organization was able to do this in communitieswhich had previously opposed our sheer existence. I used scripture. I used verses from the Quranand sayings of the Prophet, Hadiths, his sayings whichare, for example, “The best of you is the bestto their family.” “Do not let your brother oppress another.” For the first time, Friday sermonsled by local community imams promoted the rights of women. They discussed taboo issues,like domestic violence. Policies were changed. In certain communities,we actually had to go as far as saying the InternationalHuman Rights Declaration, which you opposed because it wasn’twritten by religious scholars, well, those same principlesare in our book. So really, the United Nationsjust copied us. By changing the message,we were able to provide an alternative narrative which promotedthe rights of women in Libya. It’s something that has nowbeen replicated internationally, and while I am not saying it’s easy –believe me, it’s not. Liberals will say you’re using religionand call you a bad conservative. Conservatives will call youa lot of colorful things. I’ve heard everything from, “Your parentsmust be extremely ashamed of you” — false; they’re my biggest fans — to “You will not make itto your next birthday” — again wrong, because I did. And I remain a very strong believer that women’s rightsand religion are not mutually exclusive. But we have to be at the table. We have to stop giving up our position,because by remaining silent, we allow for the continued persecutionand abuse of women worldwide. By saying that we’re goingto fight for women’s rights and fight extremismwith bombs and warfare, we completely cripple local societieswhich need to address these issues so that they’re sustainable. It is not easy, challengingdistorted religious messaging. You will have your fair shareof insults and ridicule and threats. But we have to do it. We have no other option than to reclaimthe message of human rights, the principles of our faith, not for us, not forthe women in your families, not for the women in this room, not even for the women out there, but for societiesthat would be transformed with the participation of women. And the only way we can do that, our only option, is to be, and remain, at the table. Thank you. (Applause)