Tahmeena Shamim Tahir, Sadr Lajna Georgia
“Is it true that if a Muslim kills a Christian they go to heaven?” This was one of the many questions asked in all seriousness by a Christian gentleman at the Jamaat’s bookstall in the national book fair in Tbilisi. There was no malice in the question, just genuine curiosity. If this was the thinking of the educated, the mind wonders what the remaining 3.7 million Georgians believe or had been informed about Muslims.
Georgia was the second country in the world (after Armenia) to adopt Christianity as the official state religion in 326 CE. It has seen its fair share of conquerors; from the Muslim, Byzantine and Ottoman empires (to name a few), to the recent independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
One can understand why this Christian nation may see other cultures as a threat. For the 15% non-Orthodox Christian’s it is a challenge to assert themselves in this small country – especially the Muslims who represent about 10% of the population.
In a country where traditions and culture still play a significant part in daily life, there has been a concerted effort to promote women’s rights. To be a Muslim woman in Georgia presents its own challenges, which is reflected by the virtually non-existing Muslim women leaders in the country.
To this backdrop, the Georgian Lajna sought guidance from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V, may Allah be his Helper, to hold a women’s only peace symposium; to promote not only women’s rights, but also Muslim women and the true teachings of Islam. Following guidance and prayers of Huzooraa, Alhamdulillah the event was successfully held on 26 January 2020 at the Marriott Hotel in Freedom Square, Tbilisi.
This was the first of its kind in Georgia and was well received by the 125 attendees. There were talks by present and former Members of Parliament, diplomats, religious leaders and scholars on the topic of ‘Women in Society – Empowering Women in the 21st Century’.
To promote dialogue and sharing of ideas, an open floor session was held at the end of the formal talks where participants shared their thoughts and asked questions to the panellists. The event concluded with a working dinner. Literature was distributed during the event, including Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’saa book, ‘World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace’ (English, Russian and Turkish), leaflets on women in Islam and Jamaat.
Alhamdulillah most of the literature was distributed and we had a few guests who wished to receive more. The event was in both English and Georgian, with simultaneous translation. The speakers included:
1.MP Elene Khoshtaria (MP European Georgia Party)
2.Tamar Kordzaia (Lawyer and Political Secretary of the Republican Party of Georgia)
3.Nino Kukhianidze (Tolerance Centre under the Public Defender of Georgia)
4.Julie Giorgadze (Former Diplomat, Communications Consultant)
5.Kristy Mordhorst (Political Officer, US Embassy in Georgia)
6.Mariam Gavtadze (Human Rights Lawyer, Tolerance and Diversity Institute)
7.Khola Hübsch (Journalist and Author, Germany)
Most participants did not know what to expect; after all this was a relatively big and inclusive event, hosted by a Muslim community and for women only! But Alhamdulillah it is safe to say that the event was enjoyed by all, with many requesting further events. Some comments included:
“I thought this was a really amazing event. It was an honour to speak amongst so many other amazing women, and also to hear [in the open floor session] other women give their perspective and comments, and there should be more events like this.” – Kristy Mordhorst, Political Officer, US Embassy in Georgia
“I was excited to be invited and to be speaking here, but I was even more excited after the meeting because I have heard very different perspectives on the issues, and all and each of them, the speakers and also the participants, was something that is very serious food for thought [that] I am taking away with me.” – MP Elene Khoshtaria, MP European Georgia Party
“This was an amazing experience, to see all the diverse wonderful different women from different backgrounds, from different religious ethnic backgrounds and from different countries. All this cultural diversity is one big empowerment how in different parts of the world people and women are empowering each other and bringing their voices together. It is very important to go on with this kind of work and I am really happy that Ahmadiyya Community is supporting empowerment of women and generally human rights and quality. Thank you for having me here.” – Mariam Gavtadze, Human Rights Lawyer, Tolerance and Diversity Institute
“Very personal, very interesting, informative, inspirational … Powerful, women orientated, human oriented, love orientated, very happy to be a member of this panel. I just wish we unite our efforts more in order to make women stronger all over the world especially Georgia.” – Julie Giorgadze, Former Diplomat
“I’m so grateful for the generous invitation to speak at the symposium. I had an amazing experience. It was a pleasure to hear distinguished speakers speak about their diverse experiences as well the audience. I leave with great inspiration and I leave with great empowerment.” – Nino Kukhianidze, Tolerance Centre under the Public Defender of Georgia
One professor wrote after the event “…I would like to thank the conference organizers. All speakers proposed measures to improve equality between men and women. Khola Maryam’s report was more interesting for me”.
A representative from a youth centre, Tetriskaro wrote “…there were a lot of good messages and interesting impressions, thank you for representing different organisations and sharing their experiences. Thank you for the calm and pleasant atmosphere that you created at this symposium”.
A few organisations showed their eagerness to work with Lajna in the remote regions of Georgia, helping minority groups.
One Muslim student wrote, “I appreciate the effort of bringing in women of different backgrounds. There was a good spectrum of topics that were touched. Although I personally didn’t agree with few of the speakers, I’m glad I got to hear Ms Khola’s speech. She was eloquent. The event was about discussions and I liked the way people stood up and did put forward their views. All in all, it was an honest effort. May Allah bless everyone involved. Amin.”
A friend of the Jamaat who also attended Jalsa Germany 2019 wrote, “It was interesting and motivating. I was pleased that you invited me to such a great event, thanks once again. Me and my daughter, we are really excited that we attend such a great event”.
Four Lajna members from Germany assisted at the event, one of whom, Khola Hubsch Sahiba, the daughter of the late Hadayatullah Hubsh Sahib, also spoke at the event. She had the following to say:
“It was a really beautiful experience for me and was not like I expected. The talks were deep. I’m used that such kind of events are superficial, and they are not going into depth. This time I had the feeling that [there were] so many different perspectives … and I think it is a good step for joining together in the future.” – Khola Hubsch, journalist and author, Germany
By the grace and mercy of Allah, and the prayers and guidance of Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa the event was a success. It showed Georgia that there are Muslim women’s organisations that promote peace, love and harmony, and that Muslim women can also be leaders in society.
This event was part of several smaller events the Lajna have been holding to build contacts, make friends and introduce people to the true teachings of Islam. Lajna Georgia are grateful for the people who assisted in making the event a success, and foremost to Allah and for Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’saa prayers and guidance.
We ask Jamaat members to continue to prayer for the success of Lajna Imaillah in promoting Islam in Georgia.