A new summer class at Palomar College will allow students to explore the history of Muslim women, in an effort to break down social barriers and misconceptions that educators say have gotten worse since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

“Women and Islam,” a six-week, three-unit elective course, surveys the history of women in Islamic societies from the advent of the religion to present day. The class will be held from 6 to 9:50 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays starting June 18 on Palomar’s main campus.

“There’s so much we don’t study,” said Sharon Allen, an adjunct professor at Palomar who will teach the course. “Because we don’t study it, we don’t understand it and we tend to dismiss it. I’m looking to raise student awareness as a whole on the traditions and cultures of this area that’s so rich in history.”

Allen, who taught a survey course on Middle East history at Palomar last year and pursued her second master’s degree in Arabic studies at the American University of Cairo in Egypt, said she will teach the material from a nonpolitical perspective — one that doesn’t take a stand on social or gender politics.

“I’m not trying to make a statement. I’m just trying to broaden people’s knowledge,” she said. “We tend to easily categorize people and demonize cultures we do not understand. What we need to do is educate ourselves.”

One of the goals of the class is to clear up misconceptions that people hold about Islam, including linking the religion to violence and terrorism, she said.


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