San Gabriel Mosque Holds Packed ‘Let’s Be Honest’ Town Hall
On Friday, Sept. 20, the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley (ICSGV) and MPAC partnered to host a packed community forum called “Let’s Be Honest: Getting Beyond the Taboos of Our Community.” Moderated by MPAC’s Director of Policy and Programming, Edina Lekovic, the conversation featured Sheikh Said Seddouk, imam of the ICSGV, South Coast Interfaith Council (SCIC) Executive Director Milia Islam-Majeed, ACCESS California Executive Director Nahla Kayali and Dr. Maher Hathout, MPAC’s Senior Adviser.
“This is about breaking the silence between generations, cultures and genders,” Lekovic said before the conversation started. “We have to face the tough issues head on and talk frankly about how to handle them, whether it’s about marriage, identity, sexuality, mental health, sectarian relations or interfaith relations.”
During the two-hour event at ICSGV, audience members submitted dozens of questions on a wide array of topics, which including fear between Muslims and non-Muslims, relations within local Egyptian and Syrian communities in light of events overseas, refugee resettlement, responding to attacks on our faith, pre-marital relations, youth attrition and the generation gap.
“We are obsessed with the ‘other,’ and we should be concerned more with ourselves and addressing our own issues,” Seddouk said. “It’s time to talk about the issues of mental health, anger management, etc. in the masjid so we can help people face their challenges with an Islamic perspective and also access to resources and direct services.”
Since Summer 2011, MPAC has held a series of “Let’s Be Honest” forums in the Washington, DC, area and Southern California, which have been attended by almost 1,000 community members.
Islam-Majeed, who is the first Muslim director of the SCIC, which has more than 160 member organizations, expressed her wish that Muslims would be comfortable inviting people of other faiths to share their faith much like other houses of worship invite Muslims to present about their faith and culture.
“The way that religion is interpreted is so varied,” she said. “This is part of the beauty of religion. And the more we open up to others about our own diversity, they more they will be open to us.”
Kayali with ACCESS California, which provides social services and language classes to the underserved Arab and Muslim community, said she has seen a surge in the number of refugees being settled in Southern California.
“Ninety percent of the refugees coming into the U.S. are from Muslim-majority countries, and the Muslim community is not ready to receive them,” she said. “New immigrants often experience depression within a few months of arrival because of the cultural clash and difficulties in settling in. Having relationships with Muslims and Arabs like them makes a big difference in their transition, and we can all help with that.”
This Friday night, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m., MPAC and the Islamic Center of Irvine will partner to hold another “Let’s Be Honest” town hall forum featuring MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati, marriage and family therapist Noha Alshugairi, ICOI Resident Scholar Sheikh Jamaal Diwan and attorney and activist Reem Salahi.
MPAC website http://www.mpac.org