tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT June 10, 2012 6:00pm-6:30pm EDT
>> our guest is rosa rai djalal. she is president of the muslim women's association and founder of the banter -- dental clinic in jakarta. she is married to the ambassador to indonesia. >> thank you for sitting with us. >> thank you for inviting me. >> i am so excited to talk with you. i wanted to know, one on one. tell me about indonesia and how it has changed over the past 10, 20, 30 years?
>> have you been to indonesia? >> i have not come yet. i hope to go. >> you should. we are a tremendous and beautiful country with warm and friendly people. i bet that you would like indonesia. you will not want to go back. [laughter] indonesia is one of the largest occupied countries in the world. we have 17,000 islands. >> 17,000? >> but only 6000 are inhabited. we are also the fourth largest country by population after china, india, and the united states. we have 14 million people living in indonesia. now we are the third largest democratic country, after india, the united states, and indonesia. we are a member of the g-20 and
the strongest economy in the south the asian nations. we are one of the great emerging economies. we have made a lot of changes since i was young. i am not young anymore. one of the biggest moments i have ever had in my life was during 1997, after 30 years of totalitarian from my former president. he sat down in 1997 and retrieved from the author -- from the authoritarian countries the democracy. it has changed a lot in my life. >> it kind of exploded, right? >> exactly. freedom of speech, freedom of
prayer, it is sort of like euphoria. as optimists we face the world. today indonesia is in the best shape ever. >> i want to talk to you in our conversation today about being a muslim woman. obviously, followers of islam. a large percentage in indonesia, right? >> we have 240 million people. 86% is muslim. but we have also christian catholic, hindu, and more. we are the most majority muslim country. more in indonesia than the
entire middle east. yes. yes. many people do not know that. when you talk about islam, it seems directly to other arab countries, but over there, east asia. also, they are muslim. indonesia, malaysia. >> it is a secular government, is it not? >> indonesia is not an islamic state, even though we are a majority muslim country. we are modern, very modern. we live in peace and harmony. hillary clinton, when she visited indonesia, she said
that if you want to know, these things cannot coexist together, women's rights, democracy, and islam. >> let's hold it there. i want to talk to you about being a muslim woman in the united states and also back home. sit tight right now. rosa rait is dr. - djalal. she heads up an organization called the muslim women's association in washington. we will investigate that on the other side. "this is america." >> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education.
forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation, afo communications, and the rotondaro family trust. >> we want to talk a little bit -- take a sip, we are in a coffee shop. what is life like to be a muslim woman in america? >> i am here on the roadside, also in indonesia. during my stay in america, i do not see any problem that faces me as a muslim woman. i am very fortunate, however.
when people ask me what i like about washington, i tell them the museum's, the beautiful scenery. i tell all people that i meet, everywhere i go, in the united states, that in my country or when i travel to other countries, i tell them i love the people of washington. they all have very good heart. very warm. they do not care if you are muslim, christian, jewish, or if you have no religion. that is what i feel. during my lifetime here. when i read in the media or saw my friends and ask them, do you have any challenges as a muslim? some of my friends that where the hijab and are marked.
-- mocked. >> what is that? >> it is a head covered. >> a head scarf. >> most muslim women in middle eastern country will wear it. i asked, do you have any problem? some of them, not all, of course, they have this misconception that they are wearing the scars because they are being told by the husband. because they're being told by the husband. but it is actually a personal choice. it shows respect for the religion and modesty. in my country, some of muslim
women wear them, some do not. the government has no say in this. even though we are the most populous majority in the country. >> so, do you think that -- i know that part of the way that the organization and the muslim women's association is organized is that the president, which you are, is always the wife of the islamic ambassador. that makes a certain amount of sense. but also that maybe you are involved in an estrada society. how about the women who are going to the office or raising a family at home? the covering is a kind of
respect. the philosophy is to bring the person closer to god? >> when the profit asks women, he says that islamic troops were conscripts of the romans. in the romans, only an elite .eople could wear the stascarf only the elite people, the royal family. they had a case and when islam concord, they did not want any
case. so, they asked all the women, no matter you are elite, rich, poor, marked, whenever, y hijab. everyone is equal in islam. >> in the united states, some women will see -- some people will see women with just a hijab. and there is also a loose fitting garment. what is that called? >> [unintelligible] >> burka is something else, is it not? >> yes. it is an arabic thing. we have to differentiate between islam and of the culture of the countries. these are two different things. >> ah. >> in indonesia, we do not have
to wear hijab. it is a personal choice. in other parts, even in jordan -- the queen of jordan does not aware hijab, and that is an islamic country. >> a lot of times it is a personal choice? >> it is a personal choice, usually faced by a culture. sometimes you feel safe if you are wearing a cover. in my country, you can wear anything. >> there are about 1.5 billion in the world? >> in the world. >> in the united states, there are 3 million to 7 million? >> 7 million.
>> muslims? >> yes. >> because we are kind of a christian country, anything different, people are a little uncomfortable. certainly, some women are you breaths -- some women argue threats of being called terrorists. i read a sentence that i just kind of cringe that, you know? someone after 9/11 saying that you should wear an american flag around your head so that we can know what side you are on. those kind of comments have to hurt. those kinds of comments are bigoted, are they not? racist? at least in some way. >> unfortunately, yes, it is very sad, what they have faced.
sometimes women wearing the hijab are presented in the media -- sorry about that -- and sometimes there is a misconception about muslim women. that is why this organization is open to all religions. we want to a firm understanding. >> your organization? >> yes. as a member, we invite our friends from all religions to learn more about islam. >> so that is the idea of friendship and understanding? >> tolerance and understanding the religion. they can learn from us, too.
>> let me make this -- get this clear, any woman could join? >> yes. we have some ministry in church, we have some jews as our guests or members. but in the board, it should be muslim. >> what is the work of the organization? what else do you get involved in? >> other than understanding and interface, we have this monthly discussion with serious dialogue to promote understanding. it is a culture for young muslim women to get higher education. we believe that if you give education, the one girl, it is the multiplier effect for the whole community. an educated woman will educate
her children. and it becomes good for individuals and, of course, it will lift the whole nation. >> so, obviously, women are very important. >> very important. >> the teacher of the children. >> exactly. >> kind of the bedrock of the family. >> the pillar of the family. in many places, they are behind the democracy changes. >> first of all, i want to talk to you about men and women in islam. the perception and reality. first, you are a dentist. >> yes, i am. >> you have a degree and you studied in new york? >> yes. >> back home, you have opened a
couple of dental clinics. you have done hospital work. >> yes. >> and then, also, do you have -- you had a foundation that supports youngsters? >> free school is a free elementary school. >> are those poorer students? and some of them are connected with orphanages? >> yes, some of them, orphanage. some of them, they have only one parent. the parents might be working in the fields or a pleasing -- cleaning houses. >> do you have a chance to get back home to see these different -- >> of course. i checked the projects at the schools. whenever i go back to indonesia.
>> so, here you are, a very accomplished woman, who talks about giving scholarships to young women so that they can learn and educate others. the perception that we have in america is that islam presents a repressive or very strict -- so, here is the question, i guess. is there a conflict within islam between men and women? >> no, you know. that is an american question. >> you react in that way. >> we never face that. in my country -- >> you do not? >> men and women? >> based on the religion.
is it a religion, or a culture? >> it is a religion. there is a culture to religion, of course. it is a different culture. >> ah. >> in indonesia, so. >> ah, ah, ah. i am getting what you are driving at. >> between the islamic world and the public, our main objective is to have relief in two different places, giving donations to united states based
charities. that is the object of this organization has. to answer your question about men and women in islam, the teachings of the religion are to honor, respect, and love women. that is the model. a person, a friend and a colleague. even in my religion, islam, it lies in the field. it shows how important a mother, how important a woman, how important it is that islam
honors a woman. it is the first religion to have their own property. it is the second to fort -- second to first religion that can divorce the man, who can give you money to leave and sexual needs, for six months. so, she can divorce him. it shows how islam really respects women's rights. >> if i hear you correctly, that is pretty well spelled out in the koran? >> yes. >> if i also hear you correctly , different countries in different cultures may have
different standards as far as men and women are concerned? is that correct? >> i mean, this is what i mean. islam is the same as america. but you have to differentiate between the religion of islam and the culture in one country. bless say in afghanistan, under the taliban rule, where are women who are leaving their homes? it is not islam. they have this experience. it is a culture, not the religion. one country in the middle east, there is no one's saying that women cannot drive a car. it is the culture.
it is circuitous with tradition. in my country, this can be anything they want. in many muslim countries, like pakistan, bangladesh, indonesia, turkey, we have women presidents, prime ministers, and also they become the ceo's of multinational countries -- companies. here in the united states if a woman is muslim, she is one of two. you can be anything that you want. you can speak with your own voice. >> what you are saying to us in this conversation, which is incredibly important, is making
the distinction between the religion, what it says, and the culture and what you do as a country? >> exactly. >> wow. this has been our conversation for the last half-hour, just to get that very clear. very, very clear. so, there is a difference. because what we tend to do is paint everyone together. what we have to do, what you are saying to us is we have to separate the culture from the religion. we are coming to the end of our time. this has been wonderful. i wanted to ask you one key question. how has being a muslim woman made your life better? just a quick answer. >> muslim women are very
fortunate. i and my religion, it honors women. a woman as a mother is everything in islam. muslim women seem like other women. we want to have husbands. we want to live in peaceful life. it is respect, honor. we are modern and, in many places, also young. >> thank you for your time. >> thank you very much. thank you. >> bye-bye. >> for information about my new
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