By: Mansoor Rizvi '17, MSW program
This summer, I decided I wanted to arrange an inter denominational/faith program which allowed people of multiple backgrounds to enjoy a meal together, and be able to discuss some pertinent issues relevant to Islamophobia in light of today’s political climate.
Over the last several months, I have worked very closely with a group named Muslims for Peace, and I knew that they were seeking assistance in helping to coordinate such a program. I reached out to Professor Mark Lamar and Dr. Karen Zurlo, who both suggested using one of the rooms at 536 George Street to host the event.
Working with associate deans Arlene Hunter and Scott McGoldrick, we set the date for Wednesday, June 29 and decided to call the event "Interfaith Dinner.” Our hope was to give students from all faiths the chance to break bread and break the fast with one another while having an open and honest dialogue on Islamophobia, today's political climate, Islam as a religion, and the appropriate and best responses from Muslims, their friends, and neighboring and interested communities.
This particular date was chosen in part because it occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, and allowed Muslims to break their fast. At the same time, we were able to gather people of different ideologies and backgrounds, for one meal when we could eat together and share our thoughts on the issue of Islamophobia.
On the night of the event, over 60 people attended and signed a pledge to speak up against Islamophobia, and all other who are at risk of being marginalized. Among them were NJ Senator Linda Greenstein, co-majority leader of the senate, who has worked with the Muslim community a great deal, Mr. Mohammad Ali Chaudhry, former mayor of Bernards Township and founder of the Center for Understanding Islam, as well as MSW students, families, teenagers, members of Protestant and Catholic clergies, professors from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, and even young children. Over excellent food, this diverse group sat together, united in our desire to end hatred and violence that often springs from ignorance and misunderstandings.
My hope and the hope of Muslims for Peace is that this is just the beginning of ongoing conversations among people of different faiths and experiences at the Rutgers School of Social Work. Through community and intelligent discourse, we can (and will) build an even stronger culture rooted in understanding and mutual respect.