Ohio - For six American Muslim students of the Ohio State University at Marion, (OSU-Marion) a Monday panel discussion was a way to highlight their experiences and challenge negative stereotypes, The Marion Star news reported.
Much of the national conversation on Islam involves discussion of terrorist acts by Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and this was something several panelists addressed directly.
"Nowadays there's people that fight in the name of Islam, but they're not a good representation," said Jabar Abdi, an OSU-Marion student. "They are actually hurting more Muslims than any other religion."
"Anywhere you see ISIS killing people, saying that we need to spread Islam, it goes completely against the moral teachings of Islam," said Omar Shehadeh a Palestinian-American sophomore.
"Islam tells you to do good onto your fellow man and do what you want to be done to you," he said, pointing out that members of terrorist groups claiming to fight for Islam make up less than one percent of the more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the global population.
While this topic drew some of the strongest responses, the panelists responded to questions on a range of subjects about life in the United States and Islam.
Syed, a freshman from India, also discussed her choice to wear the hijab, saying that it was a sign of faith-based modesty and, something she can accessorize. Sophomore Salma Abdel-Latif, an Egyptian-American, said she chooses not to wear the hijab, but still views modest dress as part of her faith.
Mohammed Jama, a sophomore from Somalia, said that he's been asked questions about why Muslim women wear the hijab and noted that similar attire is not limited to Islam, pointing out the head coverings worn by Christian nuns as an example.
In Syed's case, wearing the hijab in middle school and leaving class to pray led to bullying from other classmates. Omar Shehadeh, a central Ohio resident from outside Marion County, said he'd been called "terrorist" on school playgrounds during his childhood.
The panelists also voiced differing views on the upcoming election and the way Muslims have been discussed by presidential candidates, particularly Donald Trump.
From his side, Shawn Jackson, director of student life, diversity and inclusion at OSU-Marion, said the event is a way to "bridge the gap" among students of different backgrounds and the community as a whole. The event was part of OSU-Marion's International Festival, which continues through Thursday.
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