In the midst of feeling more than a little outrage about the anti-Islamic movements in the U.S. (see my last post), Nicole and I attended a great event on campus, a panel discussion on media manipulation that featured some very high profile Muslim speakers. Great timing. The event had a very open atmosphere--though to be honest we may have been among the only non-Muslims present--and was a reminder that good people continue to do positive work, work that deserves our attention every bit as much as the crap that needs to be exposed, critiqued, countered, but probably not dwelled upon.
Lauren Booth was the evening's "big name." She's a British journalist, human rights and Palestinian rights activist, and Tony Blair's sister-in-law. She spoke about her own conversion, inspired by a mystical experience in Iran and her love of Palestine, and the extreme responses to her decision to become Muslim. Also present: Ammar Nakshawani. We had heard good things about his lectures but we didn't recognize his name at first. Once he began his lecture and we heard his British accent, Nicole looked at me and said 'This is the guy who Anna (my sister) says is so good.' He was too. He spoke about a line in the Qu'ran about spreading Islam by the sword that's often quoted out of context, and gave the historical background. If you include the lines that comes immediately before and immediately after, the statement has a totally different effect.
The audience was really attentive throughout both of their talks, remarkable if you are familiar with Arab audiences who can be, well, pretty chatty--this is true at the Mosques in Dearborn and true in my classes at AUB!