Hundreds Show up at Worcester Islamic Center to Attend "Understanding the American Muslim" Event
By Tahir Ali

Worcester:More than a hundred individuals, mostly non-Muslims and officials, were present at the "Understanding the American Muslim" event organized by the "" group in collaboration with the Worcester Islamic Center. They included Congressman Jim McGovern, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, State Senator Donahue, National delegates HomairaNaseem and Noman Khanani, to name a few.
Tariq Khreim, MC, expanded on the purpose of the event.Along with MsSherinAshkar and Noman Khanani, he also served on the QA session panel.
The program revolved around Asima Silva, Director of group, who kept the audience engaged for more than an hour through slide presentations and sharing her personal experiences and those of her children at school. She drew a grim picture of how the recent rhetoric and Islamophobia affected her and her children. She found herself speechless at some of the questions that her children posed to her. She often found it difficult to answer such questions without comprising on Islamic principles.
She recalled one such instance when her sonrecently asked if he couldseek permission from his school teacher to offer his prayer. Her knee jerk reaction was, "NO!" She justified her reaction by saying, "If you put your face on the ground, the allergens on the carpe will trigger your allergies." She later thought, "Who am I kidding" and gave him the go ahead. The school Principal told her that if he had come to her she would have offered her office to him to pray in privacy. "The fear apparently is unnecessarily inculcated in us – it’s time to overcome that fear," she added. During her presentation she found it a challenge to hide her emotions and tears.
Asima took this opportunity to elaborate on the headscarf, "the Hijab," that is mostly misunderstood and wrongly interpreted as a sign of women’s subjugation: "Come on, it's only a fabric, worn for modesty." Asima citied many examples of the past and indicated that it had been prescribed earlier in other cultures and religions. She likened it with the head covering worn by Virgin Mary.
Dr Mohammad Ramzan, President of the Worcester Islamic Center, shared his family’s experience with the Hijab. "I have two daughters. One of my daughters decided to wear a hijab, the other decided not to. My wife and I did not force either of my daughters one way or the other."
Tahir Ali, introduced Mayor Petty and acknowledged the fact that he was a frequent visitor to the Islamic Centers in Worcester.
The Mayor reassured his support to the Muslims by saying: "I have your back."
Representative Jim McGovern said that events like these help in reducing the fear of the unknown and are effective in overcoming Islamophobia. He also assured the Muslims that they could count on him for support. McGovern acknowledged and recognized many Muslim community leaders present in the gathering with whom he had the pleasure of working together.
DrAmjadBahnassi, trustee ISGW, and Amjad Bhatti, president of ISGW, recognized and welcomed Dudley Town Administrator Greg Balukonis and Selectman Peter Fox, and reassured them that the Town of Dudley will find the Muslimsas good neighbors. The Town of Dudley, after a year-long battle,recently approved the proposed Muslim Cemetery in their town.
The level of interest and the success of the event can be judged from the numerous questions asked by the attendees on the occasion.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.