Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dalia Ziada Interview in Rotana Magazine (English)

On 3 June 2009, one day before I attend the inspirational Cairo speech of President Obama, Rotana Magazine published this interview with me as a young woman activist and regional director of the American Islamic Congress. Similar profiles were published during the past month in various newspapers and magazines. However, I did not have time to publish them. I was pre-occupied with the historical visit of President Obama and the Iranian conflict between the free youth and the autocratic old regime. I will publish them later here, for sure. What I like about this particular interview of Rotana magazine is that it will deliver my message to a new category of audience. This magazine is dedicated to pop and cinema stars not activists. I think I am the firs activist to appear in this magazine. Anyway, here is the text into English (to read original Arabic, Click HERE).
Looking forward to your valuable comments…

Dalia Ziada: I was attacked for FGM
The AIC is not the CIA

Profiled by:
Hussein Abul Seba'a

The American Time magazine called her Muslim Rights Champion. She appeared frequently on BBC which labeled her as an Egyptian young woman on the forefront for freedom. She spoke at Harvard University to a large group of audience from different ethnicities, nationalities, cultures, and religions. Despite the severe attack launched against her, she decided not to get angry… She is Dalia Ziada, the North Africa Director of the American Islamic Congress. We met her in Cairo and conducted this interview:

How did you know about the American Islamic Congress?

Chance played a great role in this. I discovered organization's website while I was searching the internet for the word "Dream." There I found an announcement about an essay contest for young people under 25 years-old. I participated with an article about young women rights in Egypt. Few months later, they contacted me and I won an honorable mention. This was in early 2006. Then, we kept in touch via the internet.

Does this mean you have never met with AIC members face to face?

No! Of course I met all of them. When they held a conference in Cairo by the end of 2006, they invited me. There, I met most of the executive staff of the organization. This conference also provided me with great information on the legendary Afro American activist, Martin Luther King Jr. who eliminated racial discrimination against black people using nonviolent strategies. I was inspired by the idea of using nonviolent action and I decided to make one of my guiding principles in life.

What were the challenges you faced after joining the organization?

In the next day of announcing that AIC hired me as the North Africa director, I was shocked for the huge number of accusations attempting to distort my reputation. Some called me traitor to Egypt and agent to Central Intelligence of America (CIA). Some claimed that my organization (AIC) is establishing Cairo office to facilitate CIA work there. Although I was very shocked and sad, I considered the whole thing as a silly joke. AIC is a nongovernmental independent organization and most of its funding comes from individual Muslim and non-Muslim donors who believe in our message from all over the world. Some even attacked me because I fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Tell us about your stance regarding the controversy over FGM?

Actually, I did not get angry for those who adopted the issue in a personal way. I could not differentiate between the public and the personal in this particular issue, too. When some one burns you with fire, you must cry. Hence, the crime is not that you cried out of pain and worked hard to prevent others from suffering the same pain; the criminal here is the one who burnt you. Unfortunately, our society does not understand this! When I decided to fight against FGM, which is a sensitive issue in our culture, I could not handle it abstractly without mentioning my own experience. It is not only a mere scientific theory but also a personal experience.

Why the controversy turned into attacking you?

The negative perspective adopted by some was resulted from the fact that I am a girl [not a boy]. They forgot that before all I am a human rights activist. It is well known that breaking taboos requires paying a certain price. Speaking against FGM is still a taboo in my Egyptian and Arab society; thus I had to pay the price of being misunderstood and attacked.