Self-identified as Muslim by religion, Arab by race and American by culture, an OU alumna cleared misconceptions about Islamic women’s rights at a question and answer session Monday.

Malaka Elyazgi is an Islamic woman activist who researches women’s rights, said Ersin Ozbenli, aerospace and mechanical engineering graduate student and member of the Interfaith Dialogue Student Association, which held the event 5 to 7 p.m. Monday in the Physical Sciences Center. “There are some misconceptions about women’s rights in Islam, and as an Islamic woman, Elyazgi was able to clear up those misconceptions,” Ozbenli said. “Any and all questions were welcome regarding this issue.”

As a young woman, the way people viewed Elyazgi affected the way she viewed herself, and she had some struggle finding her identity, she said.

“I had to do a lot of soul searching,” Elyazgi said. “I realized that no matter how I dressed, people were going to ask where I was from. I began to identify myself as Muslim by religion, Arab by race and American by culture.”

Elyazgi also addressed the common misconception that Islamic women are forbidden from seeking employment.

Although Islam regards a woman’s role in society as a mother and wife as very sacred, there are certain professions that are best fit for women, and Islam recognizes certain areas of employment where society needs women most, Elyazgi said.

Elyazgi has been an Oklahoma resident for the last 40 years and currently lives in Norman where she attended OU and received her bachelor’s in women studies and a minor in sociology, according to the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women website. She serves on the advisory board for OU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department, volunteers for the Norman Public Safety Oversite Committee and for the city advisory board for the Oklahoma City Police Department. Though OU’s Interfaith Dialogue Student Association was founded by Muslim students, it is separate from the Muslim Student Association and has a different goal in mind, Ozbenli said.

“The IDSA is welcome to all religions,” Ozbenli said. “Its mission is to improve the communication between students of different cultures by bridging the dialogue gap.”

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