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Posted on Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

U-M's Muslim Students' Association invites Ann Arbor to take a walk in their shoes

By Katherine Axelsen


From left, moderator Dr. Sherman Jackson, Khidr Naeem, Chris Abdul-Rahman Blauvelt, Haaris Ahmad and Asad Tarsin during the panel discussion American Sons: Reflections on being Muslim in America at the Ann Arbor District Library Downtown on Wednesday.

Melanie Maxwell |

Members of the University of Michigan's Muslim Students' Association (MSA) invited the non-Muslim community to take a walk in their shoes this past week.

More than 20 Muslim students paired up with non-Muslim buddies to share their culture, religion and lifestyle. The event provided participants with a safe space to ask questions and an opportunity to clarify misconceptions about the religion of Islam. 

"A lot of people, especially on campus, know about Islam and have heard about it through the media, but actually being able to sit down and talk to [a Muslim] is really appealing to people", said Afshan Khan, vice president of External Affairs for MSA. "They actually get the chance to see how we pray and see what goes on in the life of a Muslim behind the scenes."

"American Sons: Reflections on Being Muslim in America" was one of the events during "A Walk in My Shoes." Sponsored by the Ann Arbor Public Library, MSA and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, the event featured a panel of five Muslim men who shared their testimonies and life stories. Dr. Sherman Jackson, a professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies and visiting professor of law at U-M, moderated the panel.

"I fell in love [with Islam] because I couldn't believe I was a better person,” said Khidr Naeem, "You don't have to worry about anything with me, my family or my children."

Another panelist, Shamael Haque, reflected on the events of September 11 attacks and the tensions it created within Muslim communities.

"We feel the pain for what it did to our country”, said Haque, but, "it is as if American Muslims have to explain something they have nothing to do with."

He suggested visiting the websites of CAIR and My Faith My Voice to learn how to approach people with the truth about Islam.

The panel was informative, but Khan said the most memorable moments during the walk was "just having conversations about things that are not even Muslim and realizing we are not that different."


Muslim and non-Muslim participants of the 2009 "A Walk in My Shoes" hosted by the Muslim Students' Association at UM.

Photo courtsey of the Muslim Students' Association at U-M

Khidr Naeem, one of the panelists, spoke bluntly about the misconceptions often held of Muslims. He explained that Islam taught him to stop lying, to be kind to his mother and father and to help older women.

"Prejudice rarely survives experience," said Eman Abdelhadi, vice president of Internal Affairs for MSA. She urges the community to "be open and ask questions, try to engage people you might not know a lot about" and you will learn that we are not all that different from each other.

While MSA is a religious organization, a large part of their mission is community service.

"Muslims are Americans too, and we want to give back to the community," Khan said. "We love this place as much as anyone. I think a lot of people tend to forget that."

Katherine Axelsen is a Senior at the University of Michigan double majoring in English and Comparative Religion. She is an intern at and may be reached at



Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 12:42 a.m.

I find it amusing and bemusing that Real Keeper accuses people here of bigotry for pointing out simple truths and raising important questions. Check your newspapers, radio and wire service reports every day, and there is no denying that extremist Moslems victimize other Moslems at alarming rates in all the places and more that I named in my earlier post. Turning a blind eye to these crimes will not make them vanish. And, Real Keeper conveniently ignores the simple fact that it was Blaine Coleman and Mozhgan Savabieasfahani who went way off-topic by playing their one-note song about boycotting Israel for the umpteenth time. And, Bedrog and I are absolutely right to question their extreme anti-Israel bias. Once again, what does this bigotry do to help advance the cause of peace in the Middle East or the image of peaceful, loving, understanding tolerant Islam that the worthy MSA program cited in this article is trying to cultivate? And, for your information, we don't need a stranger's advice on how we should go about banishing misconceptions about Moslems. We do not have the image problem. If it didn't exist, there would be no need for the MSA's program. I happen to know that Bedrog has spent more time sharing a lot more than a cup of coffee with many Moslems over many years and is a true expert on Islam and many other things. And, I myself have sat down to many a meal with many a Moslem over the years and discussed these matters and much more. We need no lessons about bigotry from people who have no understanding of what the word means. ContreMilice


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 9:43 a.m.

What a great idea, please institute a program to offer this informative and enlightening program more regularly. Please don't show up randomly at our homes like the other more agressive religions. We'll come to you because we're curious and genuinely interested.