Muslim community members and interfaith leaders met over the weekend of May 20 - 22, 2016 to discuss Islamophobia in America and evolve strategies to combat this menace. Two separate events were held at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, SC, on "Understanding Islamophobia in America", one mainly for the Muslim community and the other comprising interfaith community leaders.
In the inaugural session in Friday, May 20, Chaudhry Sadiq, PICNA President, welcoming the participants, made a presentation summarizing PICNA activities and programs over the last five years. So far, PICNA programs have focused on creating awareness about Islam and presenting the true image of Islam and Muslims.
In the second phase of its development, Chaudhry Sadiq explained, PICNA aims to take up challenges facing Islam and Muslims in America. Chaudhry said that the best response to Islamophobia, was to be the best Muslim, have confidence and positively engage in the larger society.
Representing Unity Productions Foundation, Daniel Tutt, Director Programs, introduced the organization and showed clips from selected documentaries. Tutt analyzed various aspects of Islamophobia in America and how UPF was engaged in combatting this phenomenon through the power of media.
Dr. Carl Evans, ex-Chair of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina, who has supported the cause of Islam and Muslims, made a powerful statement by his thoughtful analysis of Islamophobia. He went on to elaborate, “Much of today’s Islamophobia grows out of a general anxiety about the changing religious demographics in America coupled with negative images of Islam presented in the media. The recent debate about welcoming Muslim refugees makes us aware that overcoming the fear of religious difference poses one of America’s biggest challenges.
Both programs also featured panel discussions where panelists representing diverse faiths, ethnicities, ages and genders, expressed their opinions on the subject and impressed the audience with their understanding of the challenges faced by Muslim Americans. The final segment of both programs was Q&A session and open dialogue between the speakers and the audience on the subject of Islamophobia. Both programs concluded with free distribution of DVDs of UPF's award winning documentaries.
Organizers as well as participants unanimously categorized both events as highly successful and extremely relevant in today's politically charged environment.