Originally created 09/08/02

Islamic society widens outreach



In May, a local Islamic group organized an outreach event to explain their religion.

The attendance was marginal, at best.

On Saturday, nearly 500 people from various religious backgrounds more than tripled that attendance.

With the theme Building Bridges: Muslims & America Post Sept. 11, Islamic Society of Augusta members opened their mosque doors to a public eager for knowledge about the group.

Shariq Hashmi, the president of the society, said biases toward his religion have lessened since the attacks.

"There's a lot more interest and curiosity about Islam."

He says he does have a problem with some media outlets he says generalize all terrorists as having physical characteristics of people of Middle Eastern descent.

"All Muslims are not terrorists. No one ever characterized Timothy McVeigh as a 'Christian' terrorist," he said of the man convicted in the 1995 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building.

"Sept. 11 brought the whole country together. The terrorists tried to divide us, but they failed. Instead, they united us," Mr. Hashmi said.

Wendess Jones, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, said the terrorist activity "sparked interest in educating the American public on Islam. There's more interest in the religion."

During the four-hour session at 3416 Middleton Drive, visitors participated in workshops and lectures on understanding Islam and the Quran and clarifying women's roles in Islamic society.

Azra Qureshi, who co-owns Q-Cars on Washington Road with her husband, thanked the Augusta community for support following the attacks.

"People were so helpful. They called us, checked on us and asked if we were OK. We're appreciative," she said.

A former resident of Lybia in north Africa, Catherine Thomas, of Aiken, says she knows how it feels to live in a foreign country. The sessions were timely, she said.

"It further proves the compassionate spirit of the Muslim people," she said.

On Sept. 11, an hour of prayer at 7 p.m. honoring attack victims will be held at the Islamic Society of Augusta, 3416 Middleton Drive. For more information, call 868-7278. On Sept. 14, a guest speaker will address the attacks at the Muslim Community Center of Augusta, 1821 Slayton Ave. The event will be at 2 p.m. For more information, call 231-8484.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.