By Andrea Worker, Connection Newspapers, 3/28/2013
The Nubian Benevolence Association was the official sponsor for the Muslim Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) presentation at the Lorton Community Library on Saturday, March 23, but there was little doubt that Hajjar Ahmed, daughter of the organization's co-Founder Hossam Ahmed, was the driving force behind the event.
The session was not originally on the association's calendar. "My daughter suggested that the association sponsor a positive program during March, National Women's History Month, about Muslim women as a way of encouraging the next generation of women to enter STEM careers. She came up with the idea in response to what we saw as a negative meeting that we had read about. Hajjar pretty much put this together in less than a month," said Mr. Ahmed.
He was referring to the February meeting of the Republican Women of Clifton. The topic to be discussed by guest speaker Stephanie Reis was "the treatment of women in Islamic Society" and how she believes that the hijab (head scarf often worn by Muslim women) "is a catalyst for Islamic terrorism."
"Some local Muslim men and women attended the talk," said Mr. Ahmed, "hoping to correct any misimpressions that the speakers might bring up. But my daughter didn't want to attend a negative event. She wanted to showcase Muslim women who have succeeded in difficult, male-dominated fields, and done so peacefully in the United States of America."
Mr. Ahmed welcomed the assembly with a brief explanation of who the Nubian people are, describing the descendents of an ancient civilization, located between northern Sudan and southern Egypt, speaking a unique non-Arabic language, as "a peaceful people." As to the purpose of the day's event, "It's important to encourage all people to explore the sciences," he said, "for the continued growth and welfare of our country. In the last 10 years there has been a 32 percent increase in jobs that require STEM backgrounds, but the numbers of students enrolling in STEM fields had decreased during that same time period."
The small meeting room was filled to capacity with teenagers and their families as six women, all wearing hijab, took to the speakers' panel table. Their titles, printed boldly beneath each of their names, were an impressive variety of engineering specialties, from civil to aerospace engineering, from forest genetics to IT security. (Full article)