‘Pakistan Native Reaches out’

An absorbing account of a Pakistani-American’s successful strivings to present the peaceful face of Islam and dispel misperceptions about the faith have not gone unnoticed. On May 4, Hartford Courant carried an interesting story entitled ‘Pakistan Native Reaches Out’ by its staff writer David Owens which highlighted the efforts of Dr. M. Saud Anwar in this regard. The paper reported:
SOUTH WINDSOR -- When the first reports about the massacre at Virginia Tech began to hit the Internet and TV, horror and concern weren't the only emotions felt by some American Muslims.
"We were crying because we worried it would be a Muslim and it would affect our lives," Dr. M. Saud Anwar, a native of Pakistan, told members of the South Windsor Police Department Thursday. "It's a paranoia. You're implicated no matter what."
Anwar, a pulmonologist affiliated with Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals, is a leader in the state's Pakistani American community and has taken a lead in reaching out to church groups and other organizations.
After Javed Akhtar, a native of Pakistan, was killed at his convenience store in Broad Brook, members of the Pakistani American community decided to reach out to police. Some have expressed fear that Akhtar's killing was a hate crime because no money was taken. The killing is still being investigated.
In South Windsor, there have been no problems, but Police Chief Gary Tyler and his commanders welcomed the idea of having Anwar, a town resident, brief all department employees about Pakistani American relations and Islam.
"We wanted our people to have a little better understanding," Tyler said after one of three sessions Anwar led Thursday at police headquarters. Getting an introduction to a segment of the community fits in with the police department's focus on community policing, Sgt. Scott Custer said. Anwar said there are 35 to 40 Pakistani American families in town.
Tyler said he hopes to have Anwar and others in the town's Pakistani American community participate in the department's citizen police academy so they can gain a better understanding of what the department does.
Anwar said establishing a relationship with police is important to the Pakistani American community and to Muslims. They need to know they can look to the police for protection if a problem arises. They also want a good relationship in case they need to contact police about someone in their community who may be up to no good.
Many Americans have allowed their view of Islam to be shaped by extremists, he said, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and the regime in Saudi Arabia, which doesn't even allow women to drive. Every religion has its extremists who have a rigid view of their own religion and are intolerant of others, he said. The vast majority of Muslims reject that rhetoric and condemn the actions of those extremists, Anwar said.
”We need to be the ones to define the community ourselves than have someone with a skewed view define us," Anwar said.
In his briefing to police department employees, Anwar talked about Islam, its origins, extremism and how most American Muslims share the same goals as most other Americans: peace, prosperity and a better life for their children.
"We want to educate everybody," Anwar said after his presentation. "We are their neighbors. We are no different than anyone else."
To contact Anwar about speaking to an organization, e-mail him at s.anwar@american-peace.org

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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