On November 8th, Middleton High School held a day long event for their Human Rights’ Day called “Understanding Islam.” The event focused on the topics of Islam in the news and women and Islam. Jean Feraca, the host of the Inside Islam Radio Series, moderated the panel on Islam in the news and I was part of the panel on women and Islam.
The panel members on Islam and the news discussed the controversy surrounding the Sheboygan mosque. Dr. Mansoor Mirza from the Islamic Society of Sheboygan was joined by Reverend Lorri Steward from the Ebenezer United Church of Christ in Sheboygan, Pastor Gregory Whelton from the St. John’s United Church of Christ in Sheboygan, and Professor Charles Cohen, a professor of History and Religious Studies and Director of the Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
On the panel on women and Islam, I was joined by Rohany Nayan, a graduate student and the graduate fellow of the Lubar Institute, and Betul Bolat and Ismat Bhuiyan, two Middleton High School students. The central message of this panel was that Muslim women’s experiences are diverse and that there is a difference between the practices of Muslims and the doctrines of Islam. The young girls’ stories were particularly moving as both faced an incident of discrimination. Betul spoke about being called a terrorist on the bus by a fellow student. Ismat related how students in her class refused to work with her in the days after 9/11 and said that she would blow up their project like the terrorists had done to the Twin Towers.
These young girls, Betul, a freshman, and Ismat, a senior, spoke with courage and made me realize that the impact of 9/11 had far-reaching consequences. Young Muslims, especially, only know a world where the attacks define how Islam is viewed. While the image of Islam before the attacks was negative, the fear never reached this extent. It is for this reason that it is commendable that Middleton High School held this event to raise awareness of Muslim experience and it was an honor for Jean and I to be a part of it.
Have you attended an event similar to Human Rights’ Day at Middleton High School? Do you think events like this can make a difference? Did you face any discrimination after 9/11? Do you know anyone who did? What else can be done to give a more complex picture of Muslims’ experiences? Should Muslims have to be apologetic? Please share your comments.