Striving for a More Diverse Representation of Islam to the General Public By Samia Hussein (President of Muslim Coalition of Connecticut)

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According to the United Nations, there are 7.5 billion people around the world. Theoretically, that means there are 7.5 billion thoughts, opinions, ideas, beliefs, and forms of self-expression just to name a few. If there was an opportunity to bottle up all of these and use them when needed depending on the topic of interest, wouldn’t that be an enriching experience?

According to a 2015 Pew Research Study, Islam is one of the most diverse world religions. The Quran (a holy text Muslims follow) states, “Oh mankind. We created you from a single pair of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know one another” (Chapter 49, Verse 13). This verse highlights the importance of diversity and God’s divine wisdom to make us different so that we make an effort to get to know what is different and celebrate it. Imagine a life where all of us look the same, talk the same, sound the same, it would be boring, right? Life would not be rich of language, culture, religion, etc. When I think of Islam, I think of an array of diverse backgrounds all with one goal in mind, to become closer to God.

The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut (MCCT) is a non-profit organization established in 2004 by CT Muslim leaders in the Greater Hartford area in response to the hate and rhetoric experienced among American-Muslims post 9/11. Our mission is to promote American-Islamic values through education, outreach, and community service. We strive to represent a diverse group of Muslims, from Sunni to Shia, native-born to foreign-born, men and women, black and white, born into the faith or a convert, and everything in between. Our board is an example of this diversity. When we plan our events such as our annual Taste of Ramadan Interfaith dinners or our annual Leadership Banquet, there is a conscious effort to ensure that speakers are diverse and that we are encompassing of all backgrounds. It is important to be inclusive of all backgrounds as that brings a connection with the audience we are serving.

As a Muslim Woman who wears the hijab (headscarf), I sometimes feel excluded from general discussions about women’s issues. It’s not just being excluded because I am a woman but also because I am Muslim, I wear the headscarf, and I come from Middle Eastern decent. There can be many who identify the same as I do, however, each of us have learned through our own personal memories, experiences, and upbringing. All of these must be considered when deciding on a panel of American-Muslim speakers providing education in the community. But to get to that level of inclusivity, we must be willing to reach out to those outside of the circle we may identify with. We must be willing to being open to other thoughts and beliefs of our own in order to deliver a message that can bring different perspectives. When multiple representations of life experiences are expressed, it is only at that point that we as a society can look into the lives of those before us through their own lens.