Imam promotes understanding Islam in East Lansing

Published: Sep. 10, 2016 at 6:21 PM EDT
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Though its prayers and customs may seem quite different than those of other major religions - Imam Sohail Chaudhry says Islam is based on many of the same principles.

"It is not a religion of violence, it is not a religion of intolerance. It is a religion of peace," Chaudrhy said. "Yes, it has it's own philosophy on what is the best way of life, but it does tolerate other faiths." He says another common misconception is that Islam oppresses women and does not give them freedom and rights.

"Islam is one of the first religions to bring many rights for the females including the right to vote, the right to education, the right to choose a marriage partner, the right to inheritance, ownership, business," Chaudhry said, adding that many of those rights were given to women more than a thousand years ago in Islamic culture.

The misperceptions that exist about Muslims are part of why Jennifer Tucker wanted to organize an event at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing on Saturday that allowed people to learn about Islam from a religious leader, or imam. "I am extremely passionate about social injustice, and this is my way of making sure that people know what the Islamic culture really is and what Muslims really believe," Tucker said.

She says, a black woman in the U.S., she has some understanding of what it's like to be judged on the mistakes of a few, and as the country approaches the 15 year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it's especially important to promote understanding and combat racism and prejudice. "The way that people who are Muslim have been treated as a result of that and every act of terror or terrorist event that has happened in this country and abroad since, it doesn't make it right to treat the entire race or culture bad because of the mistakes of a few," Tucker said.

She and Chaudhry say everyone can ask questions, take the time to learn about Islam, and form his or her own opinion to promote peace and understanding themselves.

For more information about Islam,

or the center itself.