Sumbul discussed her nationally-acclaimed and Independent Publishing Book award winning title, "The Muslim Next Door: the Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing." I have not read her book yet, but I did purchase an autographed copy for my personal library.
Much of the afternoon focused on Sumbul discussing what it means to be an American Muslim. In a brief introduction, she talked about her 1970s upbringing in Southern California as the daughter of Indian immigrants and discovering her uniqueness not just as an alien from an "uncivilized" country, but also as a follower of a "barbaric" religion. She narrated her high school and college experiences, reminding us of the many struggles immigrants and immigrant children face when trying to assimilate into a new culture: reconciling dietary habits, conforming (or not) with cultural values, balancing personal and professional identities, among others. Not being allowed to attend her high school prom, or date, or having to explain to her non-Muslim friends about the hijab and the fasting during Ramadan are some of the examples Sumbul shared.
Sumbul alluded to the European history of how Islam gained notoriety over the centuries as a result of erroneous interpretations, stereotypes, and fundamentalists, and added how this warped view was further fueled by the events of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and, of course, the aftermath of 9/11. Drawing from her personal experiences and based on the curiosity others had of her world, Sumbul said she decided to write this book, in an attempt to clear misconceptions and promote intercultural understanding. Her book addresses in an easy-to-understand manner issues such as the basic tenets of Islam and the religious interpretations vs tradition, while dispelling some of the commonly-held biases and misunderstandings about Islam and Muslims.
Sumbul's point was that her being a practicing Muslim does not make her a whole lot different from any of the rest of us. She contends with some of the same struggles as the rest of the population and strives to live her life with honor and dignity--a sentiment to which we can all relate.
To me, Sumbul simply presented a picture of intelligence, inspiration, and grace.