Caroline Nickerson

Sophomore, History Major

islam colloquium 2

The University of Florida has a number of “hidden treasures.” Foremost among them, however, may be the quality of speakers that it draws to campus. Tomorrow, on Thursday, November 13 in the Reitz Union’s Fourth floor Matthews Suite, from 7:00-9:00 p.m., is a truly noteworthy event. The Colloquium on Islam presents Hind Makki, a lecturer on “Representing Islam in America.”

Makki is quite the find. Well-known throughout the Islamic journalistic community, Makki has been a contributor to the New York Times, Al-Jazeera, as well as other widely read news outlets. She was also a fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute.

Yet what truly sets Makki apart from other commentators is her clear-sighted focus on the greatest problems in society. She fearlessly shoots down red herring concerns, such as the vilification of the hijab, a garment commonly worn by Muslim women, and instead chooses to highlight truly pressing problems plaguing Muslims, and especially Muslim women, in countries across the world. This includes, as she states in a New York Times opinion column: “Poverty and the unequal distribution of global medical care. War and displacement. Insecurity from sexual predators. Unequal access to education. A job market stacked against women. Lack of freedom of conscience and speech.”

Among Makki’s accomplishments is the founding of “Side Entrance,” a blog that shares Muslim women’s prayer experiences worldwide. As an award winning blogger, Makki broadcasts Muslim women’s voices in order to battle misconceptions and prejudice. This is even within the Muslim community itself, as demonstrated by the main goal of “Side Entrance,” which is to showcase the common disparities between male and female prayer spaces in mosques in order to win male allies. Through this work, Makki hopes to improve prayer spaces for women in mosques worldwide.

When asked to explain the goals of the Colloquium on Islam, Shahana Farishta, a UF 3rd Year Anthropology and Religion Double Major, as well as an organizer of the event, replied that, “Colloquium on Islam is a multi-lecture series that aims to provide a (near) academic exposure to the study of Islam and facilitate comfortable interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims of diverse traditions.” Shahana also stated that the program creates “safe space for discussion on matters of faith,” through its “thoughtful and well-balanced approach.” The organizers’ overarching goal is to “foster a community of learners and provide exposure to positive role-models who pursue non-traditional career paths.” Shahana hopes that this program will “ultimately create awareness of current socio-political environments in America regarding Muslims.” Tomorrow night, we can all learn together.