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Muslims in America and Islamophobia

Photo: Lori Fernald Khamala / AFSC

By: Rebecca Muller

Scroll down for links to audio of the program, photos, and additional resources.

The American Friends Service Committee was very pleased to present the program “Muslims in America and Islamophobia,” featuring the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad.

Before the program began, AFSC convened a meal with a few local leaders and advocates to fellowship and network together. Mojeeb Nazeri, a student at Wake Forest University, presented a digital story about his experience moving from his home in Afghanistan to the United States a month before September 11 and the prejudices against Muslims that he encountered. Nazeri used his experience facing this ignorance and prejudice as an opportunity for an interfaith dialogue with people in his community, extending to the wider community.

Todd Drake, creator of the Muslim Self Portrait project, facilitated the evening program, and presented a powerful multimedia spoken-word video on hate crimes committed against Muslims in the U.S. We also learned that while Muslims make up only 2 percent of the U.S. population, around 25 percent of workplace harassment complaints are filed by Muslims. Todd introduced two local residents who shared their experiences as Muslims in America with the diverse crowd of around 75 people: Halona Robinson and Amro Ahmed.

Robinson gave an emotional account of her experience facing intense discrimination at a local college in Greensboro. Ahmed spoke about the struggles that he faced having been discriminated within corporate America, saying that he found it a struggle to educate others on his culture. Although he was overqualified for jobs and had had more schooling than people who would get jobs, he was not able to be promoted.

Khalilah Sabra, of NC’s Muslim American Society, presented keynote speaker Nihad Awad, who is the national executive of CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) in Washington, D.C. Mr. Awad opened by sharing basic information about Islam, which itself comes from the Arabic word for Peace. His engaging style and the humility and centeredness from which he spoke reached people and opened their minds to different perspectives on Islam that those offered in the mainstream media.

At the end of the discussion, there was a question and answer session in which the audience shared their concerns with treatment toward Muslims in the U.S. as well as their dreams for coexistence for all oppressed peoples in the U.S. One member of the audience stated, “We’re all fighting the same war, but on different fronts...what would it look like if persons from different ethnicities came together to decide ‘okay this is a national issue’ do we get people who are oppressed to actually come together and fight the oppression?”

Links and resources