Do you know a Muslim?
Have you wondered why some women wear head scarves or what the difference is between Sunni and Shiite Muslims?
You can ask these questions and more, when Moina Shaiq, a Muslim from Fremont, comes to Castro Valley Library this Sunday to talk about her life and her beliefs with the hope of helping demystify Islam.
Shaiq, who has been an area resident for more than three decades, started publicly talking about her faith after the December 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino. She chose a large coffee shop in Fremont, uncertain how many people would show up. More than 100 people – standing room only – turned out to listen to her talk about her background. “I try to get people to see me as a human being, as a mother of four and as a grandmother,” she said.
After speaking briefly about herself, she opens up for questions. “People ask things like ‘Why are women oppressed?’ No question is wrong; if I get offended, it defeats the purpose,” Shaiq said. She even stays afterwards for one-on-one questions.
The event is co-sponsored by the Castro Valley Library and the Eden Area Interfaith Council (EAIC), a consortium of religious groups that promotes respect for all faiths and religious human rights for all. The group was founded shortly after September 11, 2001 and reignited a little over a year ago in the wake of a bias attack in Lake Chabot Regional Park.
Several faith leaders got together and said, “No, not in our town. This is not who we are.” They began meeting and organizing events such as a march for religious tolerance and a forum spotlighting a group of Muslim families who were willing to speak about their experiences. EAIC President Stephanie Spencer believes that while Castro Valley is becoming more diverse in many ways, every opportunity to get to know each other’s faith backgrounds and beliefs is valuable. “Our main mission is education and whatever we can do to promote safety and non-discrimination,” she said. In the context of the Trump administration’s ban on travel by people from seven majority-Muslim countries, it seems that intolerance is at the forefront of many people’s minds.
Shaiq was born in Pakistan, and came to the United States at the age of 19 with her husband, who was going to school in Dallas. They spent time in Florida, then moved to the Bay Area, which she appreciates for its diversity and open mindedness. She and her husband have four children, the youngest of whom is in college. She has two grandchildren.
As Shaiq goes out to speak in public, her husband and children have been concerned about her safety, pressing her to request security, particularly after the Orlando nightclub shooting last June. She realizes there’s no way to be completely safe and in fact no longer prays in public. But she’s determined to make herself visible and available. “It’s really good to have these interactions with people. It’s the only way to build relationships and to co-exist in the world.”