Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is looking to increase the public's knowledge of Islam and Muslims through a speaker series with regional leaders that will launch in Palo Alto next month.
Simitian, a former state senator and Palo Alto mayor, is collaborating with the Commonwealth Club for a free "Understanding Islam" speaker series that starts April 3.
"We're lucky to live in one of the most diverse places in the country," Simitian said in a press release.
"But without understanding the diverse cultures around us, misconceptions abound. Our goal is simple: to create a better understanding of Islam among the general public," he said.
"I've been feeling for some time it's important to have these discussions, the more I listen to what's happening on the national level," Simitian said in an interview with the Weekly.
The first panel discussion on April 3 will focus on the meaning of being Muslim.
The next forum on May 9 will be about politics and current events that affect how the United States understands Islam and Muslims.
The series will finish on May 22 with a talk on the meaning of being a Muslim woman and how Islam ties with gender today.
"We encourage Silicon Valley residents to attend these events, and invite their friends and neighbors as they provide a unique opportunity to hear and learn from some of the region's Muslim leaders," Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' San Francisco Bay Area chapter, said in a press release.
The scheduled panelists are Sumbul Ali-Karamali, author of "The Muslim Next Door," Jihad Turk, president of Bayan Claremont, an Islamic graduate school and Maha Elegenaidi and Ameena Jandali from the nonprofit Islamic Networks Group.
Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy said in a statement: "Not only will it lead to a greater understanding of the various interpretations of Islam, but it will create a beneficial dialogue between those of the Muslim faith and others in our community, at a time when open and respectful communication in our society is most needed."
Each 90-minute panel starts at 7 p.m. The first one will be held at Lucie Stern Theater at 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, to accommodate a large number of people who have RSVP'd to the event. The discussion on May 9 will be held at the Palo Alto High School's Haymarket Theater at 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto. The location for the final forum on May 22 will be held at Cubberley Community Center's Theatre at 4000 Middlefield Road.
Simitian will moderate each panel discussion that will be free to the public, but seating will be limited. RSVPs can be made by calling Simitian's office at 408-299-5050 or through the Commonwealth Club's website.