“Speaking from personal narrative, my father is my role model, my uncle is my role model,” Gaspard said. “They have ensured that I have power.”
Gaspard said the generalization that all women are oppressed in Islamic-majority countries is extremely problematic. A factor that contributes to this misconception is that many Muslim women wear a hijab.
“The hijab incorporates modesty,” said panelist Soumaya Lansari, a junior majoring in global studies and sociology. “People think the hijab only pertains to women, but there are also rules that pertain to men, but that is never touched on.”
Lansari said when women get to a certain age, they decide whether they want to wear the hijab.
Panelist Mariam Baaj, education chairperson for the UNC Muslim Students Association, said a lot of people’s exposure to Islam is through the media.
“It is exhausting consistently realizing how unfamiliar people are with your identity,” Baaj said. “I have had friends who upon finding out I was Muslim have told me they could not be friends with me anymore.”
Gaspard addressed Islamic extremists and how they make up an extremely small portion of the religion.
“The religion is not forcing extreme acts on its followers,” Gaspard said. “They are choosing to do that."
Sophomore global studies and women's studies major Sunny Osment said the event was a very necessary elementary introduction to Islam.
“I knew most of the things people were saying, but it was important to hear them and listen to actual experiences of what it is like to be Muslim on this campus and this community — specifically what it is like for a Muslim woman,” Osment said.