City coalition discusses ways to integrate Muslims and Latin Americans

COLUMBIA — The Bias-free Columbia Coalition met Tuesday evening in Columbia City Hall to discuss efforts to make Columbia a welcoming community for people of all backgrounds. In the third meeting of the ongoing series, the presentations centered on programs that help integrate Muslims and Latin Americans.

Rashed Nizam and Arwa Mohommad of the Central Missouri Islamic Center gave a sample of a presentation they have developed to spread awareness of Islamic culture.

Mohommad, who was born in Columbia to Iraqi parents, tried to dispel myths and misconceptions about Muslims throughout the United States and within Columbia, stressing that Muslims vary greatly by ethnicity, level of practice and culture. 

She explained that in Islam, jihad does not mean “holy war” but usually “personal struggle for the sake of God,” wearing a hijab should be a choice that each woman makes for herself, and the Quran holds men and women to be equal. She also gave advice for police officers and others who enter Muslim homes and places of worship to respect gender boundaries, remove shoes and give women time to cover before entering. 

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Another sort of cultural story. I like the subject matter, but it was hard to report on. My story after all was not an exploration of myths and stereotypes about Muslims, but a simple report on a city hall meeting. I was torn, because the interesting parts of the presentation were anything but hard news, and the hard news itself was very dry and took up an insane amount of space, since all the organizations involved had long, unwieldy names, and the coalition was a team of about 12 different groups that needed to be named. I did the best I could, but it wasn’t easy to keep it short and interesting…