Robert Azzi joins York Public Library on Saturday, March 26, 2022. Photo: New Hampshire Public Radio
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, according to Pew Research. How does that statement make you feel? Confused? Curious? Inspired? Frightened? Despite the rapid growth of Islam around the world and even here in New England, for many it remains misunderstood and politically polarizing. While it’s natural to be suspicious or even fearful of the unknown, it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves and open our minds, especially when it comes to other people. With understanding comes compassion and with compassion comes friendship and an even deeper understanding. It’s time to step outside our own comfort zones and make new friends.
On March 26, Robert Azzi will present his “Ask a Muslim Anything” program at York Public Library. Azzi has been bringing this program to communities throughout New England for several years in an effort to advocate for a more accurate public awareness of Muslim culture. He will speak briefly about the goals of the discussion and then open it up to questions. The program will run much like a town hall meeting. Azzi will answer any questions no matter how uncomfortable they may be and only asks that bad manners stay out of the room. Questions about women, Jesus, the Quran, terrorism, or comparing and contrasting Islam with Christianity are all welcome.
“I am not there to convert or convince anyone,” he said to NHPR in an interview about his programs. “I basically do this because I want to confirm that all Americans, regardless of faith, tradition, religion or race, have a voice in the American public square.”
Last October, a student art display about anti-racism was removed from the York High School library because it made some people “uncomfortable.” News of this spread well beyond York and the public outcry was loud and clear. The artwork was reinstated but the need for conversation was amplified. York Public Library, York Diversity Forum and York Hospital are working together to present “Ask a Muslim Anything,” free of charge, to anyone who wishes to learn about Islam. When community organizations and local businesses stand together and collaborate on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, the message is powerful and clear – York is a town that wants to welcome all people.
This program will be held Saturday, March 26 at 2 p.m. in the Community Room at York Public Library. Registration is requested.
If you would like more information about Islam, check out these books available at York Public Library or through the Minerva library consortium.
“Love thy Neighbor” by Ayaz Virji
“Muhammed: A prophet for our time” by Karen Armstrong
“Journey Into Islam” by Akbar S. Ahmed
“What the Qur’an Means and Why It Matters” by Garry Willis
“No God but God” by Reza Alsan
Jeanine Means is a library assistant at the York Public Library. This article was originally published in the Library’s weekly “Shelf Life” column, which is featured in The York Weekly and SeacoastOnline.com.