Imam offers insight on being a Muslim during Stratford talk

Imam Sami Abdul Aziz speaks about the Islamic religion during a talk at the Baldwin Center. Aziz is leader of the Bloomfield Muslim Community Center and Wesleyan University’s Muslim chaplain. — Brad Durrell photo

When many Americans think of a Muslim, they too often envision one thing first: an Arab terrorist.

But most Muslims do not live in the Middle East and most do not speak Arabic, and only a very few ever turn to terrorism.

That was the message of Imam Sami Abdul Aziz during an Aug. 9 talk at Stratford’s Baldwin Center, attended by about 125 people.

Aziz said followers of Islam are negatively depicted by Hollywood, leading to “irrational fears” among the general public.

He said Muslims around the world practice their religion in very different ways, reflecting the cultures of where they live. He pointed out this also is true with other major religions, such as Christianity, with its many different and diverse denominations.

Saudi Arabia is only Muslim-majority nation that forbids women from driving, yet many people may presume that is a common law throughout the Islamic world.

“I don’t think that has anything to do with Islam,” Aziz said of of the Saudi driving rule. “That’s their interpretation of the Quran. The other Muslim-majority 14 countries came to a different interpretation.”

Aziz was born in India but spent his childhood in Texas and Pennsylvania. He is the religious leader — or imam — of the Bloomfield Muslim Community Center and the Muslim chaplain at Wesleyan University.

During his talk, Aziz discussed the five pillars of Islam, how Muslims pray, how a mosque operates, the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims, and misconceptions on how the religion treats women.

His wife, Vjosa Qerimi, also spoke and focused on women’s issues. She is from Kosovo.

Audience members were able to ask questions, and Aziz used a PowerPoint presentation that included some short videos during his talk. The event was sponsored by the Stratford Rotary Club, and co-hosted by the Stratford Library and Stratford Community Services.

See next week’s Stratford Star for more information on the Understanding Islam event. 

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  • Frank Parady

    A wonderful effort to promote understanding and help bring about tolerance.

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