By Ruben Campos Arjona
Born out of a necessity to enter a conversation in which they were only talked about but not talked to, this group of women decided to make their voice heard by joining together to do the one thing no one was willing to do: establish a dialogue. Kvinder I Dialog (Women in Dialogue) has chosen to approach the general public in an attempt to build bridges and burn down stereotypes about and around them.
But who are Kvinder I Dialog? Who are the women behind the group? Wanting to know more, I contacted them with the intention of carrying out an interview.
Aisha was my answer.
Laden with the wrong assumption that age brings wisdom, and therefore youth’s defining aspect must be the absence of it, the determination, coherence and passion in Aisha’s articulate speech takes me by surprise. Still a high schooler, Aisha combines her studies with her activities in Kvinder I Dialog.
The interview unfolds organically, like a conversation, due in great part to the relaxed nature of the encounter, but also to the fact that I have apparently misplaced my prepared questions. Freed from the necessity to answer them, we establish a dialogue in which Aisha speaks about the group’s experience and her own and I let her narration guide my questions.
From the very beginning, it becomes clear that the motto of the group “Tag snakken med os – og ikke om os” (Talk with us – and not about us), is the backbone of their organisation. When asked about their beginnings, Aisha speaks about the necessity of being heard, of having a voice of their own. So far, this voice has taken the shape of several media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, as well as interviews, street meetings, conferences and even an open house.
“Most of the people we have talked to are against the ban,” explains Aisha. After a very successful open house in Osramhuset, Nørrebro and other first person experiences, Aisha’s perception is that of acceptance, which is not exactly what they were expecting. Due to the negative portrayal of the public opinion that some politicians have used to support the ban of the niqab, Aisha and her companions were surprised to find so much understanding among the people.
When we talk about the ban, Aisha’s feelings are clear: “my country is against me.” Although the ban is not strictly religious in nature, she feels that it is targeting the Muslim community. In an attempt to establish a dialogue with those closer to the source, Kvinder I Dialog contacted some of the politicians in favour of the ban. Their answer was clear: they would only accept if they took off the niqab during the conversation. Needless to say, that conversation never took place.
With the coming of the ban, Aisha fears that Denmark might be taking the road to dehumanization. Attacks against the community have increased ever since their presence in the media started to grow, and they believe that the ban will only make things worse, as the law would be siding with the attackers by making them feel justified in their actions. “In two months I’m a criminal,” Aisha states, “I will never take off my niqab.”
When asked about the future, Aisha is confident but realistic: “We will not stop.” Even if the ban comes to pass, they have already reached many people. They have humanised themselves by claiming their own voice and using it to enter the conversation and make themselves heard: “one person can change so much as long as you fight with passion, with a purpose.”
Although the future is uncertain, what Kvinder I Dialog have already achieved cannot be denied. Regardless of the ban, they will keep on their fight by bringing down stereotypes and tending bridges with the tools they know best: dialogue and enthusiasm.
“Don’t let assumptions stand in the way.”
“Learn from us, talk to us.”