A panel of six Muslim Women spoke to a group gathered at Salt Lake City’s downtown library Wednesday evening. The event was an effort to create an honest dialogue and dispel common misconceptions about Islam.
The organizer of the panel, Faeiza Javed, is a social worker who grew up in nearby West Valley. She says the feeling in the room during the panel was a sense of “good shock.”
Javed could tell many of those in attendance were not used to hearing a Muslim woman’s side of the story.
“Their perspective is one that’s almost never heard," says Javed.
Topics discussed included wearing the hijab, arranged marriage, even terrorism. Javed believes it’s candid conversations like this that break down pervasive feelings of Islamophobia.
She also senses a kind of kinship discussing these issues in Utah among many who come from a Mormon tradition.
“I actually find a lot of comfort because they get it," says Javed. "I just had a couple of individuals come up and say those exact same things to me, they’re like, ‘We could have closed our eyes and we would have thought it was LDS people speaking on that panel.’”
Panelist Satin Tashnizi says another important aspect of the panel was the diversity represented. The six women in front of the room came from a spectrum of belief and cultures within Islam.
“I was listening to the girl right next to me and I had never heard that perspective," Tashnizi says. "Even as a panelist I wasn’t there to teach I was also there to learn.”
With regard to wearing the hijab each woman had a unique approach, some choosing to wear it daily while others, like Tashnizi, don’t.
Tashnizi says if the takeaway was simply that there are multiple meanings to each aspect of Islam then she considers the night a success.