By Ryder Davis
Daily Press Intern

A recent forum at a Santa Monica church gave locals a chance to hear from and interact with a group of Islamic researchers touring the Los Angeles area.

A group of seven female Pakistani researchers from the International Islamic University of Islamabad (IIUI) held a panel discussion at the Quaker Meeting House in Santa Monica this month to promote “Academic Activism.”

The women spoke one by one, offering their observations, insights, and opinions on the selected themes and other relevant issues. Topics covered included the teaching of the Quran, women’s role in Pakistani religion and peace, the Pakistani feudal system, domestic violence in Pakistan, the core values of Islam, and teaching tolerance and peace. Members of the crowd of 30 or so, mostly Quakers, engaged the women by asking informed and inquisitive questions throughout.

One woman touched on the perception of Muslims in America and said in the U.S., people view Muslims as terrorists. However, she said all religions have certain values; truth, piety, peace, love, and more but recently these values have been eliminated and diminished by extremists, replaced by violence and rift.

The panel, led by Dr. Munazza Yaqoob, is one of five they are holding in the Los Angeles area. Their trip to California was sponsored by the US State Department, and coordinated by independent filmmaker Jennifer Lee.

Yaqoob and her colleagues invited Lee to show her documentary “Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation” at IIUI in 2013, and after doing so Lee encouraged the group to come to California on a speaking tour. The women wrote a proposal for funding to the U.S. State Department, and eventually received funds.

Lee chose the Santa Monica Quaker Meeting House, also known as Santa Monica Friends Meeting, as one speaking location because she once lived in an Atlanta Quaker meeting house.

The Santa Monica organization describes itself as are part of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers.

“Our meetings for worship are held in expectant silence, with no formal program or clergy. Each worshiper seeks to listen to the Spirit of God within. We bring to our worship a wide variety of religious experience. We believe that all people are equal and have equal access to the inner Light. When we gather in silence to worship, we are collectively seeking the presence of the Divine.”

Meetings have been held there every Sunday since 1962.