Islam does not preach terrorism, jihad is not defined as a war against Americans and only one-fifth of Muslims are Arabs.
Those are the lessons Aneesah Nadir is teaching to Scottsdale residents this week in the first of a cross-cultural communication series presented by the city’s Office of Diversity and Dialogue.
Nadir, a native New Yorker, is a professor of Islam in America at Arizona State University’s West campus and is the president of the Islamic Social Services Association, a national organization that exists to increase awareness among non-Muslim Americans about Islam and its practitioners.
"My hope is to help people of other traditions share their hands, and hopefully Muslims will extend their hands, and then we can build some bridges," Nadir said Tuesday before her first presentation.
The second and final presentation will be noon today at the Mustang Library, 10101 N. 90th Street, Scottsdale.
Residents should consider attending the event to learn more about their Muslim neighbors, and to understand them and their faith, said Don Logan, director of the city’s diversity office.
"It’s through diversity that we see we have differences, but we don’t gain respect and understanding for those differences until we have a conversation," Logan said.
Logan is no stranger to the consequences of misunderstanding. On Feb. 26 of last year, a package bomb detonated in Logan’s hands in the city’s Human Resources Complex at 7575 E. Main St., injuring his hands and arms. Logan said the incident was clearly the result of the sender’s ignorance.
Nadir said ignorance also played a role in the death of Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was shot and killed in September 2001 while planting flowers outside his Mesa convenience store.
Sodhi was a Sikh who wore a turban, and officials believe the shooter — Frank Roque — confused him for an Arab Muslim.
"The consequence of people misunderstanding Islam and who Muslims are is intolerance and insensitivity, prejudice and bias," Nadir said.
While several Muslims in the Valley have been persecuted for their faith, Nadir said for the most part, she has experienced tolerance.