CAIRO - Getting together in an unusual setting, Chicago Muslim women gathered inside an Evanston church to debunk stereotypes about their faith and hijab, correcting increasing misconceptions about Islam.
There's a psyche against Muslim women where if you see them wearing burqas or hijabs, people think, Oh, they're repressed and uneducated. We have to liberate them,' Romana Manzoor, an interfaith coordinator at the American Islamic College, told The Daily Northwestern.
Yes, this repression exists, but it's not the entire story.Women in Islam
The event was held at Chicago's Baptist Lake Street Church on Saturday night.
Titled Women in the Islamic Tradition, the panel was created by the church's interfaith committee as part of efforts to debunk misconceptions about Islam and the role of Muslim women.
Attending the event, Rana Yurtsever, a Chicago Muslim resident, recalled her experience with hijab in American schools.
She recalled how she had to explain why she donned a headscarf, or Islamic hijab, at the beginning of every school year in Washington.
Moving to Chicago during high school, she saw other girls with hijabs and thought she'd no longer have to answer questions about her religion from her peers and teachers.
I was wrong, said Yurtsever, a sophomore at the American Islamic College in Chicago.
People still didn't understand that it's an identity, not just a cloth over your head.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
As for the face veil, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.
The event is not the first for the Baptist church which enjoys a history of engaging in interfaith dialogues and social justice.
We've been trying to do what we can to eliminate misconceptions about Islam, said Harrington, the church's spiritual pathways committee leader.
It's a fundamental principle of who we are,
According to Harrington, a church member for 27 years, the church organizes about one interfaith event each month.
Manzoor, one of the panelists, taught a six-week class on Islam at the church two years ago.
Attending audience agreed that Muslims; and Muslim women in particular, have been scapegoated after 9/11.
I hope this conversation creates balance and combats stereotypes about Islam and Muslim women, Manzoor said.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.
Another Gallup poll had also found that the majority of US Muslims are patriot and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net