More than 300 Rio Grande Valley students from nine high schools learned about Islamic culture at a panel discussion led by students and faculty of The University of Texas-Pan American, Friday, Nov. 30 at UTPA.
The panel discussion, "Understanding Muslim Nations - People, Culture and Religion," was sponsored by the Center for International Education and Exchange. The nine panelists explored various issues, including the basics of Islam, Muslim culture, and customs and gender issues.
Among the panel participants were chemistry professor Dr. Hassan Ahmad, biology department chair Dr. Mohammed Farooqui, assistant library director Dr. Farzeneh Razzaghi, chemistry professor Dr. Elamin Ibrahim, mechanical engineering chair Dr. Hashim Mahdi and sophomore Saba Ahmed.
Event participants said they wanted to clear up students' misconceptions about Muslims. They emphasized that all Muslims do not subscribe to the extremist beliefs held by the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.
"Islam means peace," said Farooqui, who explained the tenets of Islam.
Ahmed said many people also were misinformed about the woman's role in Islamic society.
"Society thinks Muslim women are submissive and repressed by men in our religion," she said. "This is very untrue. Men and women are equal .The difference is in the roles we play in the family."
The discussion included a question-and-answer session with students. Many referred to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, such as the plight of Afghanistan youth, an explanation of "jihad" (holy war) and media coverage of Muslims.
University administrators said a vital part of each student's education is cultural enlightenment.
"We see this as an important need in the learning process," said Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services. "It's important to learn early on that different cultures are not better nor worse than the culture we have in the Valley."