By Reece Jamison
On Friday, April 14, the Muslim Student Association held a panel in the upstairs ABC Rooms of McClurg Dining Hall. The panel, Understanding Islamophobia in America, was dedicated to discussing Islam and its practices, as well as opening up a discussion with attendees about Islamophobia.
The panel included two guest speakers: Sabina Mohyuddin and Zaynab Ansari. Mohyuddin, a Tennessee native and Vanderbilt graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, is a founding member of The Sons and Daughters of Abraham. Ansari studied Islamic sciences in Damascus, Syria at Abu Nour Masjid, where she studied Arabic, Qur’anic study, and the Hadith, a collection of traditions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Mohyuddin began by explaining her perspective on Islamophobia, informing attendees of its implications and consequences as well as providing possible solutions to help combat the prejudice. Mohyuddin explained that the phenomenon developed as a consequence of uninformed prejudice and reactions to acts of terrorism, even though 50 percent of the estimated 2.5 million Muslims in the U.S. are native-born. She also recalled an incident when a Manchester, Tennessee community forum, intended to open a dialogue about Islam was met with taunts and jeers from protesters.
She concluded her lecture by offering ideas about how to deter Islamophobia, including becoming educated about Islam, inviting Muslim guest speakers, and challenging news meant to incite prejudice.
After a brief break, Ansari began her lecture, explaining the core teachings and practices of Islam. Ansari unraveled the meaning of Islam being a “faith tradition” by means of an intricate discussion centered on traditional anecdotes such as Muhammad’s pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca and the origin of the Qur’an, explaining in depth the significance of the required acts known as the Five Pillars of Islam. The Five Pillars serve as practices that remind the individual of their commitment to striving for peace within their relationship with their spirit, God, and others.
The panel wrapped up with a question-and-answer session, fielding questions about ISIS, Sharia law, and European efforts to reshape Islam’s image as a “positive force in [the] community.”
The panel was co-sponsored by the International and Global Studies Program, Religious Studies Department, Politics Department, Interfaith Group, HOLA, Wick, CRU, Community Engagement House and the Office of the Dean of the College. The event was filmed and will be available for later viewing by the Sewanee community.
“I was very pleased with the turnout for the event. I knew there was interest on campus for an event of this kind, but I wasn’t sure how many students and faculty would be able to show up,” said Jessica Mecellem, a politics professor at Sewanee and host of this event. “It’s great to see interest in conversation about Islamophobia and the wide variety of students and fields of study that were drawn to the lectures.”