The American Islamic Congress, a civic group that promotes interfaith understanding and awareness of Muslim culture, is sponsoring a series of five lectures in Boston this month, starting Monday evening at Boston University, to explore the diversity of Muslim culture from Africa to Europe to Asia.
There will be music and dance as well as talk. And the series will culminate in a cultural fair on Sunday, March 29, with poetry and other performances. Click here for the full program of the five conferences.
The AIC, which has offices in Boston and Washington as well as abroad, is avowedly moderate and non-religious. Born in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, it embraces women's equality, free expression, and nonviolence, and also confronts the stereotyping of Muslims -- noting that terrorism claims mainly Muslim lives.
The organization received a grant from the Boston Foundation to put on the five-part series on Muslim diversity, being staged at five different university venues at 6:30 p.m. every couple of days. The first, on Monday, March 16, focuses on Muslim mysticism. Then on Wednesday, March 18, at the Harvard Faculty Club, panelists will discuss the Subcontinent. And on Thursday March 19, the series moves to MIT for a session on Muslims in Europe.
Each event includes poetry and music.
The following week the series moves to the Mideast and Asia. On Monday, March 23, the discussion at the New England Conservatory will deal with Muslims in the Near East. And the final panel on Wednesday, March 25, focuses on the Far East, with with panelists including MIT Professor Alan Lightman, who recently helped build a mosque in Cambodia.
Nasser Weddady, who was born in Mauritania and came to the United States as a refugee in 2000, is civil rights outreach director for the AIC and works in the Boston office. He moved to Boston in 2007 from Kentucky. He says the lectures are part of a process of carving a civic space for Muslims in Boston, and moving the discussion beyond the usual simplistic focus on terrorism and religious extremism.
|Nasser Weddady (Globe file photo by Justine Hunt)|
"The conversation around Muslims is either conducted around counterterrorism -- a valid and real concern -- or else people think about theology and religion. But the reality is Islam stretches from Europe to the Far East, and in each area, it has taken on a local flavor. That’s what we’re showing through the series," Weddady said.
He added that looking at Islam through a religious lens, based on the premise "that the central foundation for the Muslim community is the mosque, is patently false.... Muslims don't look at themselves in terms of theology."
Thus the focus not only on discussion, but also on celebration that highlights the rich diversity of Islamic cultures.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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