Panel of Muslim women speak at UNM to clear up misconceptions about their religion

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SHAFAQNA – A panel of 10 Muslim women answered questions and discussed various topics during Sunday’s lecture, Muslim Women Speak.

The lecture topics were as diverse as the panel, which was composed of retirees, a biochemist/dentist, community activists, professors and business owners. Some wore headscarves, some not, some said they had converted to Islam, while others said they were born into it. Topics ranged from how the Muslim community views ISIS, contraception and the LGBT community to how prayer is integrated into daily life and the presidential campaign.

Panelist Sarah Rahman said she converted from Missionary Baptist to Islam during the 1960s and 1970s, primarily because of the Black Muslim Movement and a college course she took on world religions. The goal of the event, she said, was to educate the community and dispel myths surrounding Muslim women being restrained from speech.

“We are not really different from other women; we just have a little more to do, [such as integrating prayer five times per day into family life and work schedules],” she said.

When asked to describe the Muslim religion in one word, the panelists used terms that included “Quran,” “diverse,” “peaceful” and “beautiful,” while one woman described Islam as the solution and Muslim culture as the problem.

The audience’s most frequently asked questions revolved around what non-Muslims can do to support the Muslim community.

When it came to avoiding radicalization, the panel recommended being strong parental role models and teaching children Islam “as is”: a religion based on peace and love.

The women also asked American voters to listen to and educate one another before believing the false conceptions of Islam being presented by certain presidential candidates.

During the lecture, the panelists informed the audience that some LGBT resources are available for Muslims, that contraception and abortions are allowed (though abortions are not common) and that it is a personal choice to use headwear. The speakers explained that although not everyone will agree on what is appropriate in every community, from a young age, Muslims are taught to be non-judgmental through a phrase along the lines of “You shall have your religion, and I shall have mine.”

One panelist said that Islam does not focus on whether or not people agree on everything, but rather that there is universal respect for all.

Sardarni Sahiba Gurumeet Kaur Khalsa, a security guard at the event, said Sikh doctrine teaches not just truth, but truthful actions.

“[Thus,] we do not condemn anyone’s right to believe what they choose…We are proud to come and stand for our Muslim brothers and sisters,” she said.

Hanaa Bahraq, a junior nursing major who attended the lecture, said she identifies as Muslim and is a participant of the Muslim Student Association. She said she attended to see how she can become a better spokesperson for the community.

Bahraq said she also wanted to learn how to respond to others that may not fully understand her religion, especially when it comes to rude comments on social media. However, she said she noticed overall support and openness to learning about the Muslim religion among Sunday’s audience members. Bahraq said she also hopes that the event educated the community in an open environment where questions could be asked and answered freely.

The panelists said they were honored to be a part of the event and asked non-Muslims to share what was discussed at the lecture, speak out when they notice someone is uninformed about what it truly means to be Muslim and ultimately, be a voice for the voiceless.

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