CAIRO - In an effort to change negative perceptions about the religion among students, weekly discussions are planned at the University of Oklahoma about Muslims and their faith.
"There is no conflict between these religions, Osman Bayindir, a member of the Interfaith Dialogue Student Association, told The Oklahoma Daily.They are all Abrahamic religions.
The Association plans to hold a debate on Monday, February 18, to allow students to ask questions about the Muslim faith.
The debate, themed "Questions About Islam", would give students an opportunity to know Islamic positions on issues like terrorism, women's rights and democracy.
Students can also come to the weekly sessions to share their own beliefs, Bayindir said.
The discussions also aim to highlight similarities between Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
The discussions were planned after recent surveys reflected a growing mistrust among Americans for Islam and Muslims.
A Gallup Poll conducted in 2011 showed that nearly a third of Americans who responded to the survey reported their opinion of Islam is not favorable at all.
Americans' views of Christianity and Judaism were more likely to be very favorable than not favorable at all, according to the same poll.
More than half of Muslim Americans responding to a 2011 PEW Research poll said that it had become more difficult to be a Muslim in America since the 9/11 attacks.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of American Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
The Muslim Association hopes that the weekly sessions would help change the negative opinions about Islam.
"A Muslim cannot be a terrorist, and a terrorist cannot be a Muslim, Bayindir said.
Bayindir voiced hope that the discussions will help the community understand that Islam and terrorism are incompatible.
He is also hopeful that the discussions would also help end misconceptions that Islam and Democracy are incompatible.
Human rights, women's rights, men's rights, kid's rights - everything exists in Islam, Bayindir said.
What I have lived so far - it's a democracy.
The association will have speakers from the community come talk about various subjects.
Malaka Elyazgi, a Muslim woman who studied sociology and women's studies at OU, will come during one of the sessions to talk about women and Islam.Elyazgi is on the Commission of the Status of Women.