In late September of this year in a small room in San Jose, 25 people met—many for the first time—a Muslim woman. In the course of conversation, they learned that this woman is a soccer mom from Fremont, the mother of college-aged daughters and an active member of her religious and secular communities.
Moina Shaiq—with humor, emotion and insight—spoke of her values and upbringing, sharing that her husband does not like her wearing the traditional head covering known as the hijab because it hides her beautiful hair. She spoke of her daughters, who were never compelled to do the same, and how they exercise their right to dress as they please as they achieve an American education. She spoke as a mother, an active community member and a woman of faith. In doing so, she calmed fears and opened hearts.
Silicon Valley FACES was proud to host Moina, who speaks at neighborhood and community forums as “EveryMuslim” in the hope that people around her from other religions will feel free to approach her to learn about her life, her faith, her family and how she integrates being Muslim with being American.
Shaiq presents herself as what she is: a typical American mom who took her daughters to soccer games, who sat with the other parents to watch their children play together, not as Muslim or Christian or Jewish children, but as American children, regardless of their skin color or ethnic background.
With a sharp rise in violence against Muslims and those perceived as Muslim, and with some leaders calling for religion-based boycotts and race-based immigration restrictions, it’s time we have a dialogue that breaks stereotypes and brings unity.
Starting on a local level with face-to-face discussions, people from across various divisions can sit together in one room and share their heritage, their beliefs, their religious and moral practices, and discover that we are all gathered under one roof of one nation. They can discover that there is much more that unites us than divides us.
An open and honest dialogue is the first step to achieving this unity. It is this sort of personal, interactive exchange of ideas that will ultimately help bridge the divides born of stereotypes that drive us apart.
To that end, Silicon Valley FACES—a nonprofit organization that works to educate and unify communities through its youth-based educational and social learning projects—has initiated a series of talks by ordinary people, scholars, writers, poets and activists representing individuals across race, faith, economic and professional spheres.
The forums will be centered around principles of heartfelt, human ways of communicating, where people can get to know each other as individuals. Through their interaction, they can then spread the message of peace and respect and build a community of unity.
FACES diversity forums will promote this dialogue and lay the foundation for achieving accepting, loving communities where each of us can thrive. Positive change begins with small steps, and we’re taking those steps now. The next one takes place on Jan. 18 at the Silicon Valley FACES office, Suite 150 at 1401 Parkmoor Ave., in San Jose.
We need everyone’s help and participation to keep us moving forward and keep this momentum alive. By learning more about one another, we can move forward together.
Samina Masood is the executive director of Silicon Valley FACES, a nonprofit dedicated to building communities free of bias, bigotry, bullying and violence. To learn more about their programs, visit www.svfaces.org. To read about the most recent forum where Moina spoke, click here. To watch the video, click here.