SAN FRANCISCO – Believing that change can start by one person, Moina Shaiq started her “Meet a Muslim” program a year ago, answering questions of curious people in San Francisco and correcting misconceptions about her faith.
“It was over overwhelming,” said Shaiq, a mother of four and grandmother, recalling her first “Meet a Muslim” event a year ago, AP reported on Monday, August 14.
“Fremont is so diverse, you will see women in hijab on the streets all the time. I didn’t think people here would be interested or even need to know about Muslims.”
The program started after Shaiq realized the even her friends were scared to ask her about her religion, for fear of offending her or sounding uneducated.
Taking a first step, she put an advertisement in a California newspaper: “Questions and answers about being Muslim.” The ad offered ideas for questions: Are women oppressed in Islam? What is the Islamic view of terrorism? How does Islam view other religions?
More than 100 people showed up, encouraging her to maintain her educating project.
At a recent Rotary club meeting in Fremont, a man asked how she thinks people can combat Muslim extremism.
“This is where you start,” Shaiq said. “You understand what the faith is.”
The experience was not all positive, facing threats from some people who attended her events.
One man in Atlanta warned he would “slit her throat” if she said something he didn’t like. He listened to the discussion, never asked a question and then left.
“That was scary,” Shaiq said.
Shaiq is not the first to host a similar education program.
Earlier this year, for instance, Muslim and former US Marine Mansoor Shams traveled the country with a sign that read “I’m a Muslim and a US Marine, Ask Me Anything.”
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mona Haydar and her husband set up a booth outside a library in 2015 with coffee, doughnuts and a sign that stated “Ask a Muslim.” Other such events have taken place on US college campuses.
For Shaiq, her program is about sharing a message of love, compassion and peace.
“I want to proactively educate my fellow Americans that Muslims are humans just like they are,” Shaiq said.
“They have the same needs as anyone else.”