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Fremont, CA - 'Meet A Muslim' Events Hope To Dispel Misconceptions

Published on: August 13, 2017 02:57 PM
By: AP
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Moina Shaiq speaks to a man after a Meet a Muslim event at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace in Fremont, Calif., on July 10, 2017. Shaiq discussed the importance of the hijab, the head scarf, and the niqab, the face covering, as well as the differences between Sunnis and Shias. She also spoke about the rights of women in Islam, and what it’s like to be an American-Muslim today in her one-hour talks. (AP Photo/Kristin J. Bender)Moina Shaiq speaks to a man after a Meet a Muslim event at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace in Fremont, Calif., on July 10, 2017. Shaiq discussed the importance of the hijab, the head scarf, and the niqab, the face covering, as well as the differences between Sunnis and Shias. She also spoke about the rights of women in Islam, and what it’s like to be an American-Muslim today in her one-hour talks. (AP Photo/Kristin J. Bender)

Fremont, CA -  When Moina Shaiq realized even her friends were scared to ask her about her religion for fear of offending her or sounding uneducated, she put an advertisement in a California newspaper: “Questions and answers about being Muslim.”

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The ad offered ideas for questions: Are women oppressed in Islam? What is the Islamic view of terrorism? How does Islam view other religions?

She set up shop at a coffee house in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont, hoping for good attendance, but brought her laptop to do some work in case no one showed. To her surprise, about 100 people turned out that day last year, and her “Meet a Muslim” program was born.

“It was over overwhelming,” said Shaiq, a mother of four and grandmother. “Fremont is so diverse, you will see women in hijab on the streets all the time. I didn’t think people here would be interested or even need to know about Muslims.”

Shaiq has since spoken about being Muslim and answered questions at dozens of libraries, pizza parlors and coffee shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. She recently expanded Meet a Muslim to churches, service clubs and private homes, and traveled to Arizona and Atlanta with the program.

She gives the talks once or twice a week on her own time and her own dime to break down stereotypes.

Similar programs emerged after 9/11, when many Muslims felt the need to engage with their fellow Americans to dispel negative perceptions of their faith. They’ve seen a resurgence with a recent uptick in anti-Muslim crimes.

Earlier this year, for instance, Muslim and former U.S. Marine Mansoor Shams traveled the country with a sign that read “I’m a Muslim and a U.S. Marine, Ask Me Anything.” In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mona Haydar and her husband set up a booth outside a library in 2015 with coffee, doughnuts and a sign that stated “Ask a Muslim.”

Shaiq said she started her program to educate people about her faith and culture while addressing people’s misconceptions and stereotypes.

She explains the importance of the hijab (head scarf) or niqab (face covering), the differences between Sunnis and Shias (the two main sects of Islam), the rights of women in Islam, and what it’s like to be an American Muslim today.

Moina Shaiq speaks to a group of people at a Meet a Muslim event at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace in Fremont, Calif., on July 10, 2017. Shaiq discussed the importance of the hijab, the head scarf, and the niqab, the face covering, as well as the differences between Sunnis and Shias. She also spoke about the rights of women in Islam, and what it’s like to be an American-Muslim today in her one-hour talks. (AP Photo/Kristin J. Bender)Moina Shaiq speaks to a group of people at a Meet a Muslim event at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace in Fremont, Calif., on July 10, 2017. Shaiq discussed the importance of the hijab, the head scarf, and the niqab, the face covering, as well as the differences between Sunnis and Shias. She also spoke about the rights of women in Islam, and what it’s like to be an American-Muslim today in her one-hour talks. (AP Photo/Kristin J. Bender)

At a recent Rotary club meeting in Fremont, a man asked how she thinks people can combat Muslim extremism.

“This is where you start,” Shaiq said. “You understand what the faith is.”

Recent anti-Muslim incidents across the U.S. include arson attacks, vandalism, harassment and school bullying. In May, authorities in Portland, Oregon, say a man killed two men and wounded a third after they tried to stop his anti-Muslim tirade.

Shaiq herself has faced threats at her events. One man in Atlanta warned he would “slit her throat” if she said something he didn’t like. He listened to the discussion, never asked a question and then left.

“That was scary,” Shaiq said.

Muslim leaders consider the incidents part of a deeply alarming trend that came to the forefront in last year’s presidential election with far-right activists portraying Islam — and all Muslims — as a threat.

They see echoes of these far-right views in President Donald Trump’s efforts to ban entry into the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries and in his claims of dangers posed by immigrants and Muslim refugees. Trump has said his policies are critical for protecting national security.

Initiatives like Meet a Muslim are important at “this time of heightened fear and xenophobia,” said Zainab Arain, who works to monitor and combat Islamophobia with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Muslim advocacy group. “An effective way to push back against that, especially at a local level, is to gather people and have them get to know one another.”

Some American Muslims, however, have struggled to see the benefit of these efforts when they see community members having the same conversations they had almost 16 years ago.

“It’s just not a good use of time. The likelihood of changing a bigot’s mind is so low,” said Asha Noor, a racial justice activist based in Detroit.

Instead, Noor and other critics say the focus should be on policy change.

For Shaiq, her program is about sharing a message of love, compassion and peace.

Attendance at her talks spikes following news events that include Muslims, and the discussion often gets spirited, even tense and angry.

“I want to proactively educate my fellow Americans that Muslims are humans just like they are,” Shaiq said. “They have the same needs as anyone else.”



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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Aug 13, 2017 at 03:14 PM VeyIzMir Says:

Ah! Doing what they do best.... The art of misconception and deceit.

2

 Aug 13, 2017 at 03:20 PM Educated Archy Says:

With is frum jews there is no misconception. Muslims hate us and are happy when our blood is spilled. Many support terrorism even if they don't commit it. The only misconception there is, is that some american muslims don't hate us. That's mostly because they are not true reigous muslims. In all likelihood they don't fast 40 days on ramadan, abstain from alcohohl and pray 5 times a day. But make no mistake, the majority of muslims hate us. We recently saw this phenomenon when our heliga brother were viciously slaughtered by muslim beasts during a friday night seuda and simcha. All we heard from "peaceful muslim" nations were how bad Israel was for installing cameras after losing two cops at the holy muslim site where its OK to murder people from. Not one condemnation from the big mouths like Turkey, Jordan, and the arab League. Why not at least condemn the viscous acts committed? After all aren't these our allies and peaceful muslims? They seemed to have plenty what to say against Israel. Our blood is cheap in the eyes of muslims. Feh Feh feh Muslims.

May hashem smite them with cancer and ALS and spear us jews.

PS no its not bigotry. It called common sense.

3

 Aug 13, 2017 at 03:22 PM Educated Archy Says:

Yeah Yonasonw oh the muslims that hate us, they are just a few extremists hijacking the beautiful peace loving muslim religion. We just have a misconception of Islam and its beauty. But the yidden who molest, steal and make chilul hashem's those are all jews. In that case its not just a few extremists . Then its all jews. But no I am not bigot. I am just peace loving

4

 Aug 13, 2017 at 04:13 PM triumphinwhitehouse Says:

I've met them illpass

5

 Aug 13, 2017 at 09:32 PM PaulinSaudi Says:

What is deceitful about this? Are you saying this lady is not a Muslim? What are Muslims supposed to look like?

6

 Aug 13, 2017 at 09:36 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Educated Archy Says:

With is frum jews there is no misconception. Muslims hate us and are happy when our blood is spilled. Many support terrorism even if they don't commit it. The only misconception there is, is that some american muslims don't hate us. That's mostly because they are not true reigous muslims. In all likelihood they don't fast 40 days on ramadan, abstain from alcohohl and pray 5 times a day. But make no mistake, the majority of muslims hate us. We recently saw this phenomenon when our heliga brother were viciously slaughtered by muslim beasts during a friday night seuda and simcha. All we heard from "peaceful muslim" nations were how bad Israel was for installing cameras after losing two cops at the holy muslim site where its OK to murder people from. Not one condemnation from the big mouths like Turkey, Jordan, and the arab League. Why not at least condemn the viscous acts committed? After all aren't these our allies and peaceful muslims? They seemed to have plenty what to say against Israel. Our blood is cheap in the eyes of muslims. Feh Feh feh Muslims.

May hashem smite them with cancer and ALS and spear us jews.

PS no its not bigotry. It called common sense.

No, I think, it's much worse than bigotry. I think it's the excuse your soul has been desperately searching for to justify its lust for violence. I think you're terribly resentful and angry about your own life, and think its safe and acceptable to channel your feelings into hate against Muslims. What your fixation with cancer and ALS is, I can only wonder that you really want to be angry at G-d for inflicting those diseases on someone you loved, but can't bring yourself to do that, so you divert that anger against Muslims.

7

 Aug 14, 2017 at 08:17 AM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

No, I think, it's much worse than bigotry. I think it's the excuse your soul has been desperately searching for to justify its lust for violence. I think you're terribly resentful and angry about your own life, and think its safe and acceptable to channel your feelings into hate against Muslims. What your fixation with cancer and ALS is, I can only wonder that you really want to be angry at G-d for inflicting those diseases on someone you loved, but can't bring yourself to do that, so you divert that anger against Muslims.

Wrong . It's about hating those that want us dead . I have no hate or bigotry in my life . It's common sense . These guys are ruttheless . You would not hate someone who seeks and is glad of your death ? Are you lacking common sense . There are lots of stuff I post on here i.e. Defending trump where I totally get the other side however when it comes to this topic there is no other side . Like is the sun yellow ? Like am I a bigot if I hate all Nazis even the ones following orders ?

please justify how turkey Jordan and Arab league will only criticize Israel but say nothing about Jews getting slaughtered . You love to attack me but provide no substance . Of you disagree with me refute my logic . Answer me why won't our peaceful Muslim friends condemn vicious attacks against us ? Why ? Is it not because our blood is cheap ?

8

 Aug 14, 2017 at 03:59 PM TRump Iz Friendly Says:

Some of my best friends ....

9

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