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One Woman's Mission: Bring Understanding of Islam to Montana

Ambrin Masood is a professor at Montana State University Billings and speaks to audiences about her Muslim faith. (Courtesy of Dr. Ambrin Masood)
Ambrin Masood is a professor at Montana State University Billings and speaks to audiences about her Muslim faith. (Courtesy of Dr. Ambrin Masood)
February 9, 2018

UPDATE: Due to inclement weather, the Friday presentation mentioned here had to be postponed. When we receive more information, we will include it.

ENNIS, Mont. – Ambrin Masood travels around Montana talking about her Muslim faith.

In Big Sky Country, Muslims make up a very small part of the population: only about half of one percent. That makes Masood's work even more important.

Masood, who is an assistant professor at Montana State University Billings, has teamed up with Humanities Montana, a nonprofit that sponsors civic-minded presentations, to give speeches to schools and communities.

Friday, Masood will be in Ennis and, as with other discussions, wants to build bridges. For instance, she tells audiences that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God. She says understanding is the best tool to fight hatred.

"Sometimes we get scared,” says Masood, “and then if we don't have knowledge about the scary object, we tend to hold grudge or bitterness, and that bitterness leads to blind hate, and then that just complicates our own lives also."

Masood will also talk about how Muslims pray and dispel some of the myths of her faith. Her presentation, "Cultural Diversity and Muslims in America," starts at 6 p.m. at the Madison Valley Public Library.

Around the country, Muslims face discrimination that often plays on stereotypes. Masood uses the turban as an example.

She says men of the Sikh faith often are harassed for being Muslims because they wear turbans. In the Sikh faith, men do not cut their hair and consider the turban sacred. Masood says this isn't always the case for Muslims. She says this headwear is cultural in some parts of Asia and equates it to a fashion style ubiquitous in Montana.

"It's a symbol of pride just like a cowboy's belt buckle is a symbol of pride,” she says. “The bigger the buckle, the stronger the rodeo rider, that kind of a thing. That is how a turban is in some cultures. A turban is a cultural thing. It's not related to religion."

Masood moved to Montana in 2009 and says this is home for her and her three kids. That was solidified in the wake of President Donald Trump's travel ban.

Masood wanted to travel to visit her family in Pakistan but wasn't assured she could get back into this country.

"I couldn't go back, couldn't afford to go back to visit my family,” says Masood. “And then my colleagues here at MSUB and just people in the community – my friends – they became my support network, they became my family. And I'm resilient today, I'm doing well today because of them."

Masood says she's received as much love in Montana as she would in Pakistan.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT