'Differences without Divisions: Islam in America' forum slated

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By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Islam is a majority religion in nearly 50 countries; yet it remains a mystery to many Americans.

"Most Americans don't know anything about Islam except maybe that Muslims read the Quran, they bow to the ground when they pray and some terrorists have twisted the faith of Islam like a pretzel to justify their warped personal agendas," says journalist David Crumm, former religion writer for The Detroit Free Press and now editor of www.ReadTheSpirit.com and ReadTheSpirit Books.

To present a more balanced perspective on Islam and its practitioners, and what it means to be a Muslim in southeast Michigan, Crumm will moderate a forum "Differences without Divisions: Islam in America," set for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, at the Chelsea District Library, 221 S. Main St., Chelsea.

"This public forum is a quick way to learn a lot about Islam in a helpful setting," Crumm says. "We plan to share some really interesting facts and people can come to raise those questions that seem puzzling right now."

Crumm hopes to see attorneys and others from the legal world among the audience.

"This really is an important opportunity for people who work in the public square to improve their skills," he says. "Police officers, lawyers, judges, social workers, medical personnel, teachers, counselors -- even if your personal background is completely secular in matters of religion -- will find very helpful information here.

"Simply knowing more about the ways our neighbors lead their lives throughout the year can help a great deal in schools, clinics, public facilities and the courts. Knowing a bit about the fasting month of Ramadan, for example, can be very important when professionals are responding to families in education, public safety and health care."

Millions of Americans still have never had a personal conversation with Muslim neighbors, Crumm says.

"This Chelsea event is a great opportunity to talk face to face and ask questions."

Crumm, a fifth-generation Methodist whose family includes clergy serving in several Christian denominations, says he is doing this work as an American who cares a great deal about the health and strength of our communities.

"I'm not trying to convert anyone to Christianity or to Islam or to any other religious faith. I just want us to clear up painful misconceptions that often divide us along religious lines. I want our families to work together as neighbors," he says.

The idea for the forum came from Chelsea resident Micky Howe, whose daughter made Muslim friends in her all-women student dorm at the University of Michigan. Howe and her husband Ray invited some of these women for a "hallal" Thanksgiving dinner, and later experienced hospitality from a Muslim family in Dearborn.

"I realized these young people are hopeful and excited about their future, in their professions, creating their families and experiencing the opportunities offered in our country -- and they consider themselves 100 percent American," Howe says.

Three local Islamic leaders will discuss several issues including basic tenets of the faith; American media representations of Islam; Islam and youth; the role of women; the future of Islam and its role in America and the world.

Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini is a scholar and religious leader at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, and a past consultant on Muslim affairs to The White House, U.S. State Department and Defense Department. Najah Bazzy is a nurse specializing in trans-cultural health care and is founding chair and president of Zaman International, a food assistance program in Michigan. Dawud Walid is Executive Director of the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, assistant Imam at Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit, and board trustee for the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers' Rights Committee. He has been interviewed, quoted, and published in Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC World Service Radio, FOX, National Public Radio, The New York Times, Saudi TV 2, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.

State Representative Mark Ouimet (R-Dist. 52) will deliver the opening remarks; and the presentations will be followed by questions and discussion with the speakers.

A Young People's Forum will be held from 1-3 p.m. at the library, with a film focusing on being Muslim and a discussion facilitated by students from the U-M Muslim Student Association.

More information can be found at the One World One Family website at www.owof.com or call the Chelsea District Library at (734) 475-8732.

Published: Mon, Jan 3, 2011

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