Columbia woman brings personal experience to Islam Awareness Week

Friday, April 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA— Instead of a lecture, Lily Tinker Fortel pulled out a chair, sat in the audience and held a personal conversation about the misconceptions and negative portrayals of Iran and the Muslim culture.

Wednesday evening, Tinker Fortel of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks talked about her trip to Iran as part of Islam Awareness Week, sponsored by the Muslim Student Organization.

 "The goal of the visit was to build people-to-people understanding," said Tinker Fortel, who wanted her presentation to challenge people's views of the Muslim world.

Tinker Fortel presented pictures of herself with different high-level Iranian governmental and religious leaders and other people she met. Her photographs and experience showed a side of the Middle East not often seen in American media.

While building friendships on her trip, Tinker Fortel said that she did not encounter any negativity. "I was warmly welcomed everywhere," Tinker Fortel said.

Tinker Fortel’s photographs of Iranians using digital cameras and MP3 players also challenge the perception of people from other countries being technologically and intellectually inferior.

"As we challenge those misunderstandings, we move closer to recognizing our commonalities and creating the understanding we need to avoid war,” Tinker Fortel said.

Tinker Fortel's discussion was one of the many events hosted by the student organization for Islam Awareness Week.

The "Taste of Islam," on Monday, invited students to sample free cultural cuisine. Later that evening, Robert Baum, head of the religious studies department at MU, discussed the history and origins of Islam.

After the "Women in Islam" forum on Tuesday, the student organization shared the traditional body art of henna.

Islam Awareness Week will conclude with a visit at 1:15 p.m. Friday to the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, located at Fifth and Locust streets.

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