ASHLAND — Wearing a veil and Islamic dress in the age of 9/11 may not seem the best way to win friends on U.S. soil, but one local woman says it's helping her get across a message of peace and interfaith understanding. Saying she's "appalled" at how the media paints mainstream Muslims with the same brush it uses on Arab terrorists, Southern Oregon University student Raya Shokatfard is delivering a series of lectures on Islamic culture and religion at the SOU library on Sundays through May 29. The first session, which summarizes those that follow, is this weekend. All the sessions will end with time for questions and answers. "As members of the three major monotheistic religions, we're all cousins and we should concentrate on our unity rather than differences," said Shokatfard, 58, a former real estate broker in California and now a senior in communication, hoping to go into journalism.
Although dressed in traditional female Islamic garb with head shawl, Shokatfard has encountered no prejudice or disrespect in her year on SOU's campus. Following the tenets of her faith, she excuses herself from classes that show salacious or suggestive images or play pop music — and also to pray at appropriate hours. Shokatfard immigrated from Iran to the United States with her family in 1969. She adopted Western ways, enjoying a successful career in real estate in Southern California, slowly returning to Islam while living in Mount Shasta in the 1980s, she said. (MORE)