The Windham County community celebrates diversity with passion. Our Brattleboro Area Interfaith Initiative opened its arms to embrace area Muslims after the tragic events of 9/11 and encouraged Muslims to participate with Jews, Christians and Bahais in events as diverse as Easter, Martin Luther King Day and the Islamic Feast honoring Abraham, Eed al-Adha which is celebrated following the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. There is more than mutual respect amongst the different faiths in our small community: there is understanding and sharing of all the best of our traditions and often there have been joint services in the churches and the synagogue.
Consequently, when news appeared of friction among extremist groups of all three faiths overseas and in this country the sensationalism of the Danish cartoons about Muhammad and the Quran burnings, deliberate or accidental, painted Islam, Muhammad the Messenger, and modern Muslims as evil and aggressive bent on irrational violence against all non-Muslims, individual churches and members of the clergy in Brattleboro were appalled at the misrepresentation of Islam and demonization of Muslims.
In discussions between the clergy, Muslims and members of Brattleboro Area Interfaith Initiative it was agreed that our community would be invited to meet a broad cross section of Muslims in a panel and question them about their beliefs and about their understanding of Muhammad’s message.
The panel members are articulate and represent considerable geographic diversity while being equally conscious of their faith and the issues which they wish to address.
Mehlaqa Samdani worked as an adjunct fellow/consultant with the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). She studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University and is a Pakistani citizen who lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She is also the founder of Muslim World Partnership reaching out to residents of the Connecticut River Valley.
Thuraiya Abdullah Al Hammadi is Fulbright Scholar from Oman. She is teaching at the SIT Graduate Institute for one year. She studied to be an English teacher and was teaching English in Oman prior to this year.
Abdoulaye Sall is from Senegal and holds a master of arts degree in Peacekeeping-Conflict Transformation from the SIT Graduate Institute. In addition, he holds bachelor of arts degree in Film/Television Production, from the Columbia College Hollywood in Tarzana, Calif.
Tahir Chaudhri was born in Montreal, Quebec, and spent much of his formative years in Pakistan. He attended Marlboro College and Johnson State College, attaining degrees in Anthropology and Political Science. He spent over five years teaching English in South Korea and traveled across much of Asia.
The event takes place Wednesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. in the Main Room at the Marlboro College Graduate Center, 28 Vernon St., in Brattleboro, and is open without charge to the public. The talk is sponsored by Windham World Affairs Council, which has been active for 60 years; the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy and the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Initiative.
For further information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Javed Chaudhri is a Muslim lay member of the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Clergy Association and The Brattleboro Interfaith Initiative.