Five Women Bring Awareness to Spread Hope Among the IUPUI Campus

Five women spoke to an IUPUI audience about their experiences as Muslim women.

Five women spoke to an IUPUI audience about their experiences as Muslim women.

This past Tuesday night, five Muslim women sat on a panel to discuss Islamophobia, sexism, and racism within their own experience and community. The event was tied in with Women’s History Month while bringing more to the table with Muslim identity. The panel brought insight and awareness on the necessity to be united within our campus and in our country as a whole.

The two-hour long panel consisted of two main parts. The women gave their own testimonies and then took questions from the audience towards the end.

Hadyatoullaye Sow, one of the panelists, was “filled with glee” to share her experiences and bring awareness for Muslim women within the celebration of Women’s History Month.

“I was excited that a panel like this even exists. I was proud that people were taking the time to see that Muslim women’s voices are important. We are the voices that are so needed, but often silenced. In a time that people are struggling to share their identities as Muslim, it’s a wonderful thing that other people come out here and want to hear our stories.”

All the experiences the five women shared were raw and personal.

Fatimah Safder, a recent graduate of IUPUI, told a story of when she was a college freshman and someone told her to “go back to where she came from” because of her hijab and dress.

Rima Shahid, a mother of three, told the audience not only has she personally been accused of being a terrorist, but that she was teaching her children how to be terrorists as well.

The effects of harsh social media posts were also discussed, and the internet’s lack of a filter has continuously resulted in devastating posts.

The five women unanimously pointed out these harsh experiences were from other people’s ignorance and fear of the unknown. They stated the lack of interaction between the Muslim community and Western culture hindered any sort of understanding and acceptance for their culture.

Culture and religion were also topics of interest as the night progressed.  

Nora Abdelwahab, a current IUPUI student, brought up how the confusion of culture and religion only result in furthering the barrier of the Muslim community with Western society. Her culture and religion have clashed, and explained the inability of people to distinguish the two leads to incorrect assumptions about Muslim women.

“No one ever forced me to wear my hijab, but in the past, some people have mistaken me covering myself in this way as a source of oppression. It was completely my choice. What those people don’t seem to realize is that wearing the hijab is not the oppression. Being told I am oppressed is the oppression itself.”

Shahid also added on to the importance of distinguishing the two correctly for not only this generation, but for the future generations as well.  

“Religion is something to be practiced, and culture is something to be celebrated. I can’t change the policies of the world, but I would like to make a change in the world that my children live in.”

The IUPUI audience. 

The IUPUI audience. 

The panel created an incredible focus on bringing people together with conversation and empathy. The pervasiveness of stereotyping has contributed to this great divide in the United States, and the problems that arise from these prejudices will only continue to add heat to this consuming fire.

All the women are hopeful for the future, and refuse to be ruled by fear. Instead, they choose to continue doing their part in bringing awareness through open discussion and by treating others how they would want to be treated.

Shahid summed the night up perfectly for all the women sitting up in the panel.

“My belief in my God, religion, and country are the reasons I have no fear. Together, we can make this right.”