The public event, ‘Demystifying Islam,” held at the Irmo Municipal Building August 30th was hailed as a great success by event organizers. Hosted by Mayor Hardy King, and co-sponsored by the Peace and Integration Council of North America (PICNA) and Interfaith Partners of South Carolina (IPSC), the event was designed to provide opportunities to learn more about Islam both around the world and in the Midlands following the recent controversy over comments posted on the Mayor’s Facebook page. The evening featured a presentation on Islam, followed by an engaging panel discussion and Q&A from distinguished members of the local community, Chaudhry Sadiq (President, PICNA), Dr. Mary Kennerly (IPSC), Mayor Hardy King, and Cheryl Nail (IPSC & Columbia Jewish Federation).

The topic of terrorism was addressed directly by Chaudhry Sadiq, who condemned any acts of terror in the name of Islam, proclaiming Islam as a religion of peace. When challenged by a member of the audience as to why Muslims do not speak out publicly against terror and violence, the ensuing conversation among participants highlighted the plethora of statements made by Muslims both in the US and abroad condemning acts of extremism and terrorism.

Cheryl Nail said “Religion isn’t the problem. Extremism is…Extremists distort our religions. Just as I would never judge the Christians in this room by the actions of Dylan Roof, I would never judge Chaudhry by the acts of ISIS, and I know he would never judge me by the acts of those who propagate acts of violence in the name of Judaism.”

Dr. Mary Kennerly, former school Principal in Irmo, acknowledged that while religious terrorism is a cause for concern, there are greater fears to be addressed locally, including incidence of school shootings, and South Carolina’s high rate of fatalities resulting from DUIs.

She writes: “I wish my greater fears were as aggressively addressed in our community as are the fears of terrorism from those who say they are Muslims.” Sharing her experience as a school Principal, Mary added: “During my 43 years as a school teacher and administrator I encountered Muslim students frequently. They were always good examples of respectful behavior toward their peers and the adults in the school.”

This public event provided a valuable opportunity to challenge harmful stereotypes through honest, open and enriching interfaith encounters. More than one hundred members of the local community turned out for the event, including members from various religious traditions, as well as local Irmo residents.

 

Adrian Bird

Chair, Interfaith Partners of South Carolina