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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Panel addresses myths about Muslims

By Parker Williams

Muslim students say there is no shortage of myths and misconceptions when it comes to Islam.

Women are oppressed in Islam, all Muslims hate the West, Islam encourages terrorism and Muslims don’t believe in Jesus were just some of the myths addressed during a panel discussion held last Wednesday in the Union Theater.

Maryam Shahrebani, a senior in biomedical engineering and a member of the panel, said the media’s portrayal of Muslim women as oppressed, second-class citizens is inaccurate.

Many of the stereotypes about Muslim women stem from the wearing of head and body coverings known as the hijab.

People often view women who wear the hijab as oppressed, enslaved and not able to express their opinions, Shahrebani said.

“On the contrary, those of us who have chosen to wear the hijab are very liberated and we’re able to protect our dignity and integrity,” Shahrebani said. “If women…around the world were to adopt the form of hijab you would see less rape and molestation.”

Zuhaib Alam, a doctoral student in computer science, discussed the myth that Islam encourages terrorism.

When a Christian commits a crime, he or she is brought to justice. When a Muslim commits a crime, the whole religion comes under scrutiny, said Alam, pointing to the treatment of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as an example.

“When 9/11 happened, American Muslims were hurt twice as bad. We were hurt because this was an attack against our country and an attack against our religion,” Alam said. “There are terrorists out there. There are Muslim terrorists out there, but to put the guilt on 1.2 billion Muslims is unfair.”

Roughly 25 students attended last Wednesday’s event, which was sponsored by the U’s Muslim Student Association. After the presentations concluded, panelists took questions from the audience. Audience members asked questions about personal salvation and the Muslim perception of the crusades. One person asked why images of the prophet Muhammad are taboo. Alam said pictures and statues of any prophets eventually lead to people worshipping ignorantly — perhaps worshipping an idol rather than God.

Anwar Arafat, president of the Muslim Student Association discussed relationship between Muslims and the West.

The notion that all Muslims hate the West isn’t true, Arafat said. He mentioned that across the street from the largest mosque in Mecca are three American restaurants.

“If we were at odds with the West, don’t you think someone would do something like?burn (down) a McDonald’s?” Anwar said.

Anwar also talked about how the media propagates myths about Islam. Many people believe the word “jihad” means “holy war,” but literally translated it means “to struggle.”

Anwar described telling a friend, who had given him an Arabic copy of “The Book of Mormon,” that the word “jihad” was used throughout the book.

The Muslim Student Association will be hosting events throughout September in the recognition of Ramadan, a Muslim religious observance. For more information, visit the MSA Web site at

[email protected]

Jarad Reddekopp

Maryam Shahreb speaks about women in Islam during a panel discussion in the Union Theatre on Wednesday.

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