Muslim Topekans speak on Islamophobia in class

Ali Dade

Three Islamic women from the Topeka community visited Women and Gender Studies, a class taught by Sharon Sullivan, professor of theatre, to discuss their faith and Islamophobia Nov 15.

Jewel Makda, Lou Saadi and Deqa Rabile all came from different backgrounds.

Makda was raised in a Christian family. She became interested in Islam after taking a world religions class while in college. She converted to Islam on the same day of her wedding to her Pakistani-born husband, in 1999.

Lou Saadi came to appreciate and adapt to the Islam religion through her husband, who was born in Tunisia. She had doubts about Christianity while growing up.

Deqa Rabile was born in Somalia and raised in the faith. She grew up in a highly-educated family that frequently traveled and got to learn about different religions and cultures.

After giving their introductions, they then opened up the floor for questions from the classroom audience.

The first subject discussed was about what problems the women had faced because of their religion.

Makda explained that she typically only wears hijab, a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women, when she is going to mosque. When she does this, she frequently sees people giving her weird looks.

“I get frustrated with ignorant people who don’t understand and don’t know any better,” Makda said.

Rabile then spoke on the same subject.

“I understand where this behavior comes from: ignorance,” Rabile said. “I feel sorry for them. I do know that the majority of people don’t feel that way. My frustration is more about my children and the judgement they get at school. I want them to know the rights they have as American-born citizens.”

Makda and Saadi were asked about the hardest part of converting to Islam from Christianity.

“I have a very diverse family, religiously,” Makda said. “My biggest challenge was answering those questions from my family about the religion. I also struggled with realizing the difference between the Islam religion and what was just aspects of culture.”

Saadi noted that she did not receive resistance from her family, but that her biggest struggle was with the fact that there was an expectation to learn Arabic and learn the Quran.

Rabile then explained what helped her realize her faith. She told a story of convincing her parents and teachers to let her learn Arabic when she was 10 years old.

“I always loved Arabic language,” Rabile said. “That is what opened doors for me and helped me expand my religion. I have always taken classes on the Quran and now I enjoy teaching my children what I’ve learned.”

One student then asked about the biggest misconceptions of Islam.

“Some of the biggest misconceptions are formulated by the media,” Rabile said. “People think Islam is a strange religion and some people even call it a cult. However, Islam is based on the teachings of Muhammad. It is an Abrahamic religion. As a Muslim, I cannot be a true believer if I do not believe in Jesus. I must believe in all the religious figures such as Abraham, Mary, Noah and so on. Muslims believe Jesus will come back. He will come back and unite us all when he does.”

Rabile then mentioned one of her favorite passages from the Quran that speaks about peace in its simplest form: “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

The women wanted to note that anyone is welcome to attend a service, but you are asked to be respectful and dress modestly. Their services occur every Friday at 1 p.m. at the Islamic Center of Topeka which is located at 1115 Southeast 27th Street.