Community Conversation dispels myths about Islam

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SOUTH BRUNSWICK –  In an effort to promote tolerance through education, the South Brunswick Public Library held one of a series of conversations on major faiths around the world on FEB. 28.

Suzy Ismail, an author and Visiting Professor of Communication at DeVry University, led a discussion titled “Dispelling Misconceptions About Islam,” providing an understanding of what Islam is all about and how she as a Muslim American lives her faith.

Ismail emphasized that Muslim Americans are taught to live their faith by service to others and showing kindness and compassion.

“Any actions devoid of mercy and compassion are not of the faith,” she said.

Ismail spoke to a crowd of more than 70 people, including members of the South Brunswick Human Relations Commission, the Interfaith Clergy Association of Greater South Brunswick and the Community Resource Team, which co-sponsored the event.

South Brunswick Board of Education Member Azra Baig, coordinator of the program and a member of the Human Relations committee, said she was hopeful that the event would dispel some of the misconceptions about Islam.

Ismail applauded those who attended the event for taking the first step towards opening the door to conversation.

“It is not an easy thing to step outside of our comfort zone and conquer our fears and say, ‘Yes, I want to learn,’” she said.

Library Director Chris Carbone emphasized the need for the library to play a role in educating the community as part of its mission.

“It is key for libraries to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas,” he said, “and we wish to continue to celebrate the diversity of our vibrant community.”

“This is what a public library should do, force us to have conversation,” said State Assemblyman Jack Ciatterelli, who attended the event. “There is power and beauty in diversity.”

State Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, a South Brunswick resident, also praised South Brunswick for coming together as a community. He challenged everyone to step up and speak out against hatred and negative rhetoric.

Also in attendance were State Senator Linda Greenstein (D-NJ) and South Brunswick Council Members Jo Hochman and Joseph Camarota Jr. Baig praised the legislators present for being advocates for justice and humanity, speaking up against racism and discrimination.

Specific dates have yet to be finalized for the remaining events in the Continuing Community Conversations. Visit the library’s online calendar of events for upcoming news at www.sbpl.info.