Leaders to consider 9/11’s role

Some local Muslim leaders said they plan to dispel stereotypes about Muslim traditions and culture at a forum scheduled for today on campus.

The law school's Public Interest Law Society and the American Constitution Society for Law and Public Policy are presenting a panel discussion about how the attacks of 9/11 have altered life for many Muslims in the United States at 3:30 p.m. today in Sensenbrenner Hall 325. The event is open to anyone interested.

The discussion is set to feature Irfan Omar, theology professor; Othman Atta, president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and 1994 Marquette law school graduate; and Janan Najeeb, director of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition. The Rev. Richard Sherburne, law school chaplain, will moderate the discussion. A question and answer session is set to follow the presentations.

Participants in the event — called "Being Middle Eastern and Muslim in the United States Post 9/11" — said they hope the discussion will provide comprehension about the Muslim perspective.

"Understanding that students and other people have the tendency to discriminate is strong at a time like this," Sherburne said. "So it's necessary that we understand one another's cultures and religious traditions with the respect we would hope for our own."

"Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has been having this colossal discussion about Islam," Najeeb said. "The majority of the time, Muslims are not invited to be part of this discussion. What you are left with is opinions that really do not reflect the beliefs and ideologies of Muslims. It's important for people to keep things in perspectives and also to do as much as they can to really understand from a variety of viewpoints the situation in the Middle East and also the ideology of Muslims."

According to Sherburne, Omar is scheduled to be the first presenter and he plans to talk about general beliefs and practices of Islam.

Atta, the next presenter, said he will discuss the effects of 9/11 on the Muslim community in terms of societal and legislative issues.

"It's an educational function relating to the Bill of Rights," Atta said. "I think it's important for law school students to be aware of how the legislation will affect our rights and how I believe the present Justice Department under John Ashcroft is actually dismantling many of the rights we hold dear."

The final panel presenter will be Najeeb, who said she would focus on the stereotypes regarding Muslim women, including their modesty in dress, obligations and opportunities.

"I would urge that people be mature about this and not randomly generalize and stereotype this group of people," Najeeb said.

Atta owns an immigration and naturalization law firm called Kachelski, Atta, & Straub in Milwaukee. He also teaches courses on religion and the culture of Islam at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

Najeeb is a microbiologist and director of medical assistant training for limited English proficiency at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Najeeb is also the director of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition — an outreach, education and advocacy organization started ten years ago with the goal of helping dispel many stereotypes about Muslim women through outreach programs and workshops.