In Northern California, local Muslims were part of a panel discussion, a sort of 101 on the Muslim American experience, which took place at the College of Alameda. The panel served as an opportunity for Muslims to talk about their religion and answer questions from the audience, providing much needed perspective about Islamophobia and extremism, and most importantly, their faith.
Mindy Thomas, a law professor at St. Mary’s College who has studied Sharia law and was on the panel, says attacks on mosques and Muslims themselves have been on the rise since 9/11 and now with the global threat of ISIS, there is a clear backlash against the Muslim community, all stemming from a basic misunderstanding about the faith.
This misunderstanding has left college student Sohaib Jalal Sahraye, who hails from Afghanistan, frustrated. “It’s clear as crystal that [ISIS] are not Muslims,” Sahraye. “And they’re killing Muslims.” Mr. Sahraye offers another example of cultural misunderstanding citing that the definition of “jihad” actually means “struggling” or “striving,” representing an internal struggle to fully live out ones life via their faith. “That’s really the problem that we need to tackle,” says Professor Thomas. “We need to tackle that culture of ignorance and — forgive me — hate.”
Elham Chishty, a psychology professor at College of Alameda, says she hopes those who attended the forum can look beyond the often inflammatory headlines, and see the people on the panel as, well, people. “It’s really about engaging in a dialogue,” says the professor.
The event also screened Unity Productions Foundation’s short-film American Muslims: Fact Vs. Fiction .