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Panel Discusses Islam Myths and Facts

by Charlie Hilliard, student staff writer, The News-Register

A full house in the Student Life Center witnessed the “Islam: Facts and Myths” panel on Oct. 20. North Lake College's government professor Dr. Gabriel Bach hosted the event to help educate audience members about the myths and misconceptions of Muslims and the Islamic faith.

Last year, Bach met with Delhi Ekembo, coordinator at the Islamic Center of Irving Outreach, and proposed a potential panel event. Together, they gathered four speakers: Dr. Robert Hunt, a Theology professor at SMU; Nicole Queen, a celebrity event photographer and Muslim convert; Shaykh Omar Suleiman, world-renowned Islamic scholar from New Orleans, and Dr. Imam Zia, the author of Islam: Silencing the Critics.

Bach, although not a Muslim himself, explained that he wanted NLC students and community members to understand the Islamic religion because, “they didn't have a decent view of what it was.”

Panelists' Opening Remarks

Dr. Zia opened the panel officially by discussing mistaken beliefs many non-Islamic people have regarding the Muslim religion. He started with comparisons in religion where the Quran goes back to Abraham and mentions Jesus returning in the future, which is a shared belief with Christianity.

Following Zia, was Shayk Suleiman who tried to simplify the definition of the Islamic religion while discussing the biased media coverage found on many news stations.

“There is a reason we're not called 'Muhammadists,'” said Suleiman. “Because we don't worship the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. We hold him in the same regard we hold the other prophets and messengers.” This point caught the attention of the room.

Although he raised interesting points, his portion of the panel lasted 20 minutes, which unfortunately ate into the next two panelists' time thus limiting time for the question and answers portion of the talk as well.

The third speaker and only female of the panel, Queen, explained her own misunderstanding regarding Islam's treatment of women before she converted from Baptist to Muslim.

“When I would see a woman covered up with a hijab I would think instantly that she is oppressed or that she's being forced to wear that."

According to Queen, the head covering is a choice and not a requirement.

“To think ill of religion is to believe that huge portions of humanity are either fools or evil,” said Dr. Hunt. There was tension in the audience as he made bold statements about the freedom of religion in the United States.

Audience Questions

After the panelists had their turn, questions written on note cards by the audience were addressed by the guest speakers. The audience had a variety of questions — some curious about the religion itself, while others asked questions that had racist undertones.

Queen was asked, “If your daughter or granddaughter did not want to follow the traditional Islamic culture or religion and wanted to follow the American culture, because we are in America, would you allow your daughter to follow the American culture?”

She explained that she lives the American culture by “eating barbeque and smearing sauce on her jeans.” Clarifying that if the questioner meant whether her daughter could follow a different faith, she would allow it.

There were also questions asking whether the Muslim panelists would promote the United States following Sharia Law. These questions were taken by Suleiman who informed the audience that this was not the intention.

For anyone who didn't attend or their questions weren't answered, Imam Zia offered a solution.

“I would urge everyone in the future, if you really and truly want information about Islam, then interact and get involved with Muslims,” he said.