Event helps non-Muslims, Muslims know one another

22 Aug
Monday, August 22, 2011
By Malak Shaher, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette
Magali Curiel of Aspinwall, a Christian originally from Curacao, attended the 17th annual Humanity Day at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in Oakland on Saturday.

Trying to fix the scarf on her head, Magali Curiel explained that she is not a Muslim. She was wearing the head covering out of respect because she was in a mosque. Mrs. Curiel is a Christian from the southern Caribbean country Curacao and has been living in Pittsburgh for 14 years.

On Saturday, Mrs. Curiel, of Aspinwall, was attending the 17th Annual Humanity Day at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, an event that was intended to build understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“Before I came, my friend said I was crazy to go to an Islamic event,” Mrs. Curiel said. She explained that she decided to “take the adventure” when she found out about the event.

“There is misunderstanding, and I think we need more information about Muslims and Islam.”

The main topic of the event, attended by 650 people from different faiths, was the rights of non-Muslims according to Shariah, or Islamic law. Imam Ramez Islambouli, a teacher of Islamic law, Islamic studies and Arabic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, gave the talk.

The Islamic Center imam, Abdusamih Tadese, said the topic was chosen because questions about Shariah have become common among many people in America. He said the word Shariah stands for the duty of Muslims toward their neighbors.

Last year, the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee organized an interfaith program in Rodef Shalom Congregation’s social hall in which around 70 students from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Protestant and Catholic faiths came together.

“Just a few years ago, I was afraid of Muslims,” said Deborah Fidel, executive director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee. “One day I heard [Muslims] talking about the actual and real discrimination that they are suffering, and as I sat there and listened, I realized that I knew those stories because they were the same stories that my grandparents told us around our dinner table … the same stories the elder Jewish have talked about.”

“That night I decided that I have to stop talking about Muslims and start listening to them and to be part of the solution and no longer part of the problem.”

Mrs. Fidel was among five people honored by the Islamic Center for their work in furthering the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims. The other four recipients were Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh; Lois Campbell, executive director of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network; the Rev. Glenn Grayson of Wesley Center AME Zion Church; and U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton of the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Before the dinner, the event included a question and answer session between the attendees and Imam Abdusamih Tadese.

A similar open house was held Thursday at the Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Monroeville.

Sammar Barakat, a Muslim from North Oakland, said this was the first time she participated in an event that “helped people understand each other.”

“This was a nice opportunity to be part in an event because it gave people the chance to ask about Islam.”

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