American Muslims are as diverse in outlook and views as any other group in the United States, but they continue to struggle under the burden of frequent stereotypes and misunderstanding, according to a distinguished panel of religious scholars and journalists who participated in a symposium at Georgetown University in Washington April 19.

Panel member Hadia Mubarak, the first woman to head the National Muslim Student Association, observed that her identity includes the Jordanian and Syrian heritage of her parents as well as her childhood in Panama City, Florida.

“My appreciation for the ideals [of this country] is reinforced by my religion. Islam has been central in shaping my identity as an American,” she said.

The one-day symposium was co-sponsored by Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and “On Faith,” an interactive, electronic discussion of religious issues being hosted by Newsweek and Washington Post around the world.

Mubarak was joined by other panelists who together provided a diverse cross-section of American Muslims, including:

* Ingrid Mattson, the first woman to head the Islamic Society of North America;

* Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain for Georgetown University and the U.S. National Naval Medical Center, and the imam of the Islamic Society in Frederick, Maryland (just outside Washington);

* Salman Ahmad, a Pakistani-American medical doctor, and the lead guitarist for the popular South Asian rock band, Junoon; and

* Sherman Jackson, an African American convert to Islam and a professor of both Arabic studies and law at the University of Michigan.

The symposium moderator was John Esposito, a professor of religion and international studies at Georgetown, and the founding director of the university’s Talal Center.

Several media representatives participated as well, including the founders of the “On Faith” initiative — Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, former Washington Post writer Sally Quinn and Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller.


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