The event, set for Sept. 9 and 10, seeks to 'combat fear with knowledge' about the religion.
By AMANDA O'TOOLE REGISTER STAFF WRITER
Aminah McCloud said it's been difficult being a Muslim in a post-9/11 world.
An associate professor of Islamic studies at DePaul University in Chicago, McCloud travels the country discussing her religion and the societal issues that surround it. She said animosity at those events has increased since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
"There are people there now who actually want to hurt me," she said.
McCloud and two other Islamic academics will speak at an Islamic conference at Drake University on Sept. 9 and 10.
The conference, "Islam in America: Finding Common Ground," will focus on a deeper look into the religion from several viewpoints.
Today is the registration deadline. The $20 registration fee includes the price of lunch on Saturday. Students can attend free of charge but will be asked to pay $10 for lunch if they choose to eat. Registration can be completed on the Iowa Sister States' Web site, www.iowasisterstates.org. Other speakers include Jane Smith, co-director and professor of Islamic studies at the Duncan Black MacDonald Center in Hartford, Conn., and Scott Alexander, director of Catholic-Muslim studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
With the conference so close to the fourth anniversary of Sept. 11, McCloud said it's uplifting to see so many people wanting to learn more about Islam.
Conference times were not intentionally scheduled to coincide with Sept. 11. In fact, organizers were concerned that the anniversary may have a negative effect on the conference, said Ibrahim Dremali, imam at the Islamic Center of Des Moines.
Both McCloud and Dremali said the media portrayed Islam and its followers in a bad light after the attacks. The misconstrued information often incited fear and sometimes violence, McCloud said.
It is important that people attend conferences like the one at Drake so the fear doesn't transfer to other generations, McCloud said.
"I'm hoping to continue some dialogue and open some others," she said. "I hope that we put fear at bay and we don't let it unleash its powers to consume us. You can only combat fear with knowledge."
Seven workshops have also been scheduled throughout the two-day conference. The workshops will cover topics such as women in Islam, the experiences of Muslim immigrants to Iowa, Muslim stereotypes and media coverage of Islam.
McCloud and Dremali said they were impressed how understanding people in Des Moines are of the Muslim culture and the citizens' willingness to learn.
She said it's amazing to her that Des Moines remains a stable ground in the country and also offers opportunity to learn the truth about Islam, McCloud said.
"Iowans have not lost the concept that they have to fight for democracy, and fear is something that can kill you."