Prof. David Coury and Associate Prof. Heidi Sherman are continuing to encourage education and dialogue around a recent email exchange involving the founder of UW-Green Bay’s Muslim Student Association (MSA), most recently with a column that ran Monday (Nov. 3) on the Opinion Page of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. As Log readers may recall, the exchange between University alumna Heba Mohammad and Green Bay Alderman Chris Wery quickly made local and national headlines late last month, after Wery responded to Mohammad’s inquiry about bus service by questioning the MSA and asking whether she condemns Islamic terrorism. The University responded by hosting an Islamic awareness event last week, and Sherman and Coury — co-faculty advisers of the MSA — also sought to bring the message of education and inclusivity to a larger audience. “Since the tragedy of 9/11, student interest in as well as misconceptions about Islam have been on the increase,” the pair wrote. “As a public, liberal arts institution, we feel it is our obligation to teach about these issues and engage in campus and community dialogs to foster greater understanding of our globalized world.” Read the full column.
More than 100 people packed the Richard Mauthe Center on the UW-Green Bay campus Thursday (Oct. 30) evening, gathering for a community meal and dialogue designed to combat stereotypes and promote inclusivity.
“Islam awareness: A conversation about Islam, the Muslim Student Association and inclusivity at UW-Green Bay” was organized in response to a recent well-publicized exchange involving UW-Green Bay alumna Heba Mohammad ’14 and Green Bay Alderman Chris Wery. Mohammad had emailed Wery to inquire about free bus service on Election Day, and he responded by questioning the Muslim Student Association she founded and asking whether she condemns Islamic terrorism. Wery, who was not in attendance Thursday, has since apologized to Mohammad and said he will meet with the association’s faculty advisers. Still, organizers said, the exchange demonstrates the need for greater education around Islam and the MSA.
“This event provided a tremendous opportunity for education and positive dialogue around Islam specifically and the importance of inclusivity generally,” said UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Heidi Sherman, co-director of the University’s Center for Middle East Studies and Partnerships and co-faculty adviser for the UW-Green Bay MSA.
The evening kicked off with a Somali dinner at 6 p.m., which was followed by the full program at 6:30. Mohammad Rashid, president of the Fox Valley Islamic Society, delivered the evening’s keynote address, speaking from the heart about his faith and its tradition of peace. He read from the Quran and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), and also offered historical perspective on Islam.
Muslims often are the victims of guilt by association, Rashid said, as people confuse what is fundamentally a peaceful religion with the acts of radicals who claim the faith as a justification for their actions.
“I ask you to look beyond it — what are the facts?” he said. “I would like to have a dialogue with that alderman who made those comments to Heba. I’m, at heart, a citizen of America. I love this country.”
Later in the program, Mohammad and Sherman joined Rashid for a panel discussion in which they accepted oral and written questions from the audience. The trio addressed a variety of queries ranging from the basics — prayer five times a day — to addressing stereotypes and discrimination.
“The religion I know, the religion I practice,” Rashid said, “… My religion tells you even not to offend somebody with my words. It is that careful. … That is the religion of Islam.”
In the age of social media, Mohammad added, it’s easy for people to hide behind negative comments made online.
“If you have a question about any culture,” she said, “I highly recommend you get to know someone (from that background).”
The evening also featured a discussion on inclusivity, and a presentation from Residence Life’s Quin Merriweather and University Police Officer Cristey Johnson on UW-Green Bay’s participation in national Stop the Hate programming.
As the panel discussion wound to a close, Rashid told attendees about the Islamic Society’s ultimately successful efforts, some 30 years ago, to build a mosque in Neenah. The group met with initial opposition, he said, but education and dialogue ultimately prevailed.
“The neighbors who opposed our mosque are good friends now,” Rashid said. “They all became very good friends.”
The campus and larger communities are invited to an evening program titled “Islam awareness: A conversation about Islam, the Muslim Student Association and inclusivity at UW-Green Bay,” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 30) at the Mauthe Center on campus. The event is being held to dispel myths, answer questions and educate attendees about Islam, and to provide information about the University’s Muslim Student Association (MSA), which as Log readers may recall was at the center of last week’s well-publicized exchange involving UW-Green Bay alumna Heba Mohammad and Green Bay Alderman Chris Wery. The event will kick off at 6 p.m. with a free first-come, first-served dinner featuring Somali cuisine. The program portion of the event will begin at 6:30, and will include a presentation on dispelling stereotypes about Islam, a panel discussion, an informational presentation about the MSA, and distribution of information about Stop the Hate programming on campus. Our news release has additional information.
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay will present an evening program titled “Islam awareness: A conversation about Islam, the Muslim Student Association and inclusivity at UW-Green Bay,” from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 in the Richard Mauthe Center on the UW-Green Bay campus, 2420 Nicolet Drive. It is free and open to the public.
The event is being held to dispel myths, answer questions and educate the campus and larger communities about Islam, and to provide information about UW-Green Bay’s Muslim Student Association (MSA), now in its fourth year as a campus organization. The MSA has presented similar awareness and educational programming in years past, and is again looking to facilitate a dialogue on Islam due in part to recent conversations and questions raised in the Green Bay community.
Thursday’s event will kick off at 6 p.m. with a free first-come, first-served dinner featuring Somali cuisine. The program portion of the evening will begin at 6:30, and will include a presentation on dispelling stereotypes about Islam, a panel discussion, an informational presentation about the UW-Green Bay Muslim Student Association, and distribution of information about Stop the Hate programming on campus. Attendees will have the opportunity to write questions during dinner to be posed later to the panel, and the evening will conclude with additional time for Q and A.
“This event provides a tremendous opportunity for education and positive dialogue around Islam specifically and the importance of inclusivity generally,” said UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Heidi Sherman, co-director of the University’s Center for Middle East Studies and Partnerships and co-faculty adviser for the UW-Green Bay MSA. “I would encourage anyone who has questions about Islam, or who is just looking to learn more, to join us for this informative conversation.”
Green Bay Alderman Chris Wery says he won’t resign his post in the wake of controversy over a well-publicized email exchange he had with UW-Green Bay alumna Heba Mohammad. As we told you here previously, Wery has come under fire for responding to Mohammad’s inquiry about Election Day bus service by questioning the Muslim Student Organization she founded and asking whether she condemns Islamic terrorism. The exchange went viral on social media and quickly made local and even national news earlier in the week. City Council president Tom DeWane told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that Wery’s line of questioning was “unfortunate” but that he won’t push for the alderman to step down or be disciplined by the council. DeWane also told the newspaper he believes Wery will be meeting with Muslim Student Association representatives regarding the situation. You can read the full story.
We told you here yesterday that a story involving two UW-Green Bay alumni, Heba Mohammad ’14 and Green Bay Alderman Chris Wery ’93, was making headlines locally and even nationally after Wery’s response to a transit-based inquiry from Mohammad went viral on social media. The alderman apologized to Mohammad Tuesday (Oct. 21) after responding to her question about free public bus service on Election Day with his own questions about whether she and the Muslim Student Association she founded condemn Islamic terrorism. Mohammad, Wery and Prof. David Coury, adviser of the student group, have been quoted extensively by news media in stories appearing last night and today. USA Today picked up the Green Bay Press-Gazette story on the matter; that piece and a sampling of other coverage is as follows:
Green Bay Press-Gazette
WBAY, Channel 2
Local 5 News
Fox 11 News
Green Bay Alderman Chris Wery has apologized to the founder of UW-Green Bay’s Muslim Student Association for responding to her question asking why public bus service isn’t free on Election Day – as it is on Packers game days – with his own questions about whether she and her former student group condemn Islamic terrorism. The local resident, Heba Mohammad, a May 2014 UW-Green Bay graduate, is also the former president of the Student Government Association. Mohammad, Wery and Prof. David Coury, faculty adviser to the Muslim Student Association, were quoted extensively in a Press-Gazette story that was picked up by the USA Today website Tuesday night. Mohammad, who politely declined to answer the alderman’s questions, said she accepted Wery’s later apology and preferred the focus be on public transportation and voter access to polling places. To read the full story in USA Today.
The Muslim Student Association and the Mauthe Center are proud to host a series of events for Islam Awareness Week (April 15 – 19), open to students,University employees and the community. Prof. Heidi Sherman (Humanistic Studies) is a contact for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remaining events this week:
• Wednesday, April 17: Movie, Muhammad: The Legacy of a Prophet with facilitator Imam Mohamed Zakarya, in Rose Hall 250, at 6 p.m., with discussion to follow the screening;
• Thursday, April 18: Panel presentation on “Muslim Women and Education,” at the Mauthe Center at 6 p.m., with “tasty Bangladeshi appetizers” to be served;
• Friday, April 19: Mosque Visit, with the Islamic Society of Wisconsin, at the Green Bay Mosque, 1512 Velp Ave., at 12:45 p.m., with food served, and all are welcome.
The Muslim Student Association and the Mauthe Center are proud to host a series of events for Islam Awareness Week (April 15 – 19), open to students, University employees and the community. The series kicked off Monday night at the Mauthe with an evening with the Somali community. On Tuesday (April 16), the panel discussion at 6 p.m. will address “The Similarities Among Islam, Judaism and Christianity.” We’ll have more details on the week’s events in our next issue.