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Unpacking Islamophobia with a Diverse Expert Speaker Panel

HKS DC Council hosted a robust and thoughtful conversation on manufacturing bigotry in the context of the recent rise in Islamophobia. PEPCO Edison Gallery hosted the Council in their beautiful gallery space in Chinatown for which we are grateful. Participants enjoyed the art work at the event.

The Islamophobia discussion was driven by additional powerful insights from the LGBT and Japanese American communities, a former White House official and was moderated by writer Wajahat Ali, also a former Al-Jazeera host who framed an intellectually stimulating session. Councilor Ruma Samdani welcomed guests and shared her personal motivation for organizing the event. Panelists' expert commentary were given by Mara Keisling, Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality, Zaki Barzinji, former Senior Associate Director in the Obama White House, Prof. Saeed Khan at Wayne University's Near East & Asian Studies and Ron Mori, co-president of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Washington DC chapter.

The rich discussion centered around unpacking manufactured bigotry against American Muslims and minority communities. Panelists discussed historical trends and events that have otherized American communities at different times. Also discussed was the need to form partnerships, engagement with unlikely allies, and the impact on the society as well as minority communities. Ali kept the audience entertained with his tongue in cheek humor while discussing a tough subject. Attendees engaged in question and answer session and approached panelists afterwards.

Panelist Ron Mori's personal family artifacts were on display for the attendees to learn from not so recent incarceration of fellow Americans that was fear-based. Noriko Sanefuji, with the Smithsonian American History Museum was also on hand to provide historical context. One take-away from the speakers was to stay optimistic, stay engaged and take care of each other. Councilor Lisa-Joy Zgorski closed the event's proceedings and thanked attendees for participating.

HKS DC Council was represented by Lisa-Joy Zgorski, Joey Wang, Ruma Samdani, and friends of Council Malik Siraj Akbar, and Stan Duvall.

Alumni are encouraged to follow @HKSAlumniDC, "HKS in DC" on Facebook and subscribe to for future gatherings and events.

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