Answering Frequently Asked Questions About Islam

Graduate Theological Union Opens Center for Islamic Studies, 11/6/07

Tuesday, November 6th was an exciting day for the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, where for years different efforts had been made to open an Islamic Studies Department to complete the teaching of the many faiths offered on what is fondly referred to as “God’s Hill” because of the plethora of religious institutions and seminaries. Tuesday marked the celebration of the GTU’s new Center for Islamic Studies which will be headed by Dr. Munir Jiwa. The event was commemorated with much fanfare, including a luncheon with state and local government officials & interfaith leaders, including ING board members Chief Rob Davis & Imam Faheem Shuaibe; ING’s president, Maha Elgenaidi; and, ING Advisor & Zaytuna Institute Founder, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson. Imam Faheem, Shaykh Hamza, Maha, and Ameena Jandali, ING’s Sr. Content Manager also joined various panels throughout the day that addressed the topic of religious pluralism, titled: “Pluralism in Practice: Muslims in Interfaith Dialogue, Study and Social Action.”


In their individual sessions, ING speakers joined a diverse group of scholars and religious leaders in emphasizing the importance and methodology for interfaith dialogue and understanding. A much repeated theme throughout the day reflected the Qur’anic verse that states that diversity is part of God’s plan for creation, and is a reason to celebrate, not a cause for division.

The event was attended by various media outlets and was covered in the San Jose Mercury News in an article titled, “Islamic Center has Call for Unity,” at:

The center was also the subject of an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle the previous day in an editorial by the GTU’s president, James Donahue and the Center’s new director, titled “Studying Islam for a More Peaceful World.” See:

Fourth in JCCSF Series, “Women in Islam,” 11/5/07

Maha Elgenaidi delivered the fourth and last in the four part “Study of Islam and Muslim Series” at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on Monday, November 5th. This class addressed some of the issues relating to “Women in Islam,” which is one of the most misunderstood and stereotyped topics about Muslims. Maha began by laying the foundation of Qur’anic principles relating to women’s status in Islam that emphasize equality between the genders before addressing some of the specific areas of misunderstanding, such as hijab (nun like covering), polygamy, divorce, inheritance, giving testimony, honor killings, etc. She also emphasized the diversity among Muslim women, from traditional women in villages to well educated professionals and even heads of state, as has been the case in many Muslim predominant countries. At the end of the presentation, audience members engaged Maha in an animated discussion and Q and A about related issues, as well as similarities and differences with the role of women in Judaism. Many thanks to the JCCSF for sponsoring this series and a semester long focus on Islam and Muslims.

Orientation on Islam and Muslims at San Jose State, 11/5/07

Maha ElGenaidi addressed two classes on Abrahamic traditions at San Jose State University on Monday, November 5th, where she delivered an Orientation on Islam and Muslims with special emphasis on commonalities between the three faiths, including common beliefs, practices, and the emphasis on following the Golden Rule of “treating others as one wants to be treated.” The students were intrigued to hear of the many similarities with the other Abrahamic faiths, and had the usual questions about common stereotypes.

ING Conducts Training for Berkeley MSA Students, 11/1/07

ING conducted training on how to answer difficult frequently asked questions for a group of Muslim Students Association (MSA) students at UC Berkeley on Thursday, November 1st. The students wanted to learn how to answer difficult questions that they are often asked while tabling for the MSA near Sproul Plaza. The session began with some general guidelines about answering questions before addressing the most relevant of ING’s 150 FAQ’s that have been answered by scholars first before summarized for lay people by ING staff. The questions focused on the most controversial issues, relating to women and violence, and prompted other questions that the students had received. The students were greatly appreciative for the opportunity to increase their own Islamic literacy on these subjects.

ING Speakers Visit Nine Middle and High Schools, 10/31/-11/5/07

ING speakers across the Bay Area visited nine different middle and high schools last week for a total of 23 presentations to 26 different classes on a variety of topics relating to Islam and Muslims. Eight different speakers made these presentations possible, devoting their time and efforts to providing education on a much misunderstood topic. ING has received a large number of requests this semester which it is working hard to fill. If you or your friends are interested in becoming an ING speaker, please contact the ING office at (409) 296-7312, or write to [email protected]

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