Town hall event aims to inform on Muslim faith


January 11, 2002|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE NORTH Laurel Civic Association invites speakers to address local issues that are important to the community. This month's event will be no exception - except that, in addition to being of local interest, the issue at hand is one that consumes much of the world today.

North Laurel resident Mubariz Razvi will discuss U.S.-Pakistani relations in the context of recent world events at a forum Thursday. Razvi is especially well-suited to the task. He was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, the son of a high-ranking government official. He hopes that his "town hall-style" discussion will enhance understanding of Muslims and clear up possible misconceptions.

The civic association's treasurer, Donna Thewes, met Razvi and arranged for him to speak. "We like to try and find interesting new speakers to address ideas that are hot on people's minds," she said.

Tom Flynn, the association's president, agreed that the group's mission includes keeping the community informed about important issues. "In light of the Sept. 11 events, we thought this would be beneficial," he said.

Razvi, an American citizen who has lived in this country almost 30 years, welcomed the opportunity. "We are trying to bring awareness to the public that all the Muslims are not bad," he said.

His family is Muslim, but he grew up surrounded by people of many faiths. His parents sent their seven children to Catholic missionary schools in Pakistan, where pupils came from a variety of religious backgrounds. "My parents were firm believers in a good education," Razvi said.

Razvi says that his late father, N.A. Razvi, served as director of intelligence for Pakistan - the equivalent of our CIA director - in the 1970s. Razvi said his father "was instrumental" in setting the stage for the establishment of U.S.-China relations during the Nixon administration.

In 1972, the elder Razvi encouraged his son to pursue a college education abroad. Razvi took his father's advice and moved to upstate New York. He has lived in the United States ever since.

Being Muslim-American in the United States has not been a hindrance for Razvi, though one incident did leave him feeling uneasy, he said. Shortly after the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, a well-educated woman commented to his Pakistan-born wife, Zahida, "Your God is a violent God."

"That was ignorance on the part of that lady," Razvi said. "There is no religion on the face of the earth that ever propagates violence." But, he acknowledges, many Americans' knowledge of Islam is limited to news of outrageous acts committed by extremists who do not follow the peaceful code of conduct espoused by the Muslim faith.

The woman's comment came back to haunt Razvi on Sept. 11. He knew that the terrorist attacks would conjure up similar misconceptions about Islam and its followers among Americans. Razvi decided to educate the public by giving talks that touched on not only religion, but also on cultural, political and philosophical issues related to the Middle East and its impact on the rest of the world. So far, Razvi has spoken at about a dozen venues in the Baltimore area.

He believes that better understanding of different peoples is the first step toward a peaceful world. "The world is like a family on a large scale. The elders must take care of the kids."

Razvi will speak at the North Laurel Civic Association meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Murray Hill Middle School. The forum is free and open to the public.

Reading makes cents

Bollman Bridge Elementary School pupils took the saying "a penny for your thoughts" and modified it to "a penny for every minute you read."

Last fall, the children kept a tally of how many minutes they read during a six-week period. Some of them collected 1-cent donations from sponsors for each of those minutes, said Tracy Kennedy, program coordinator and media assistant. The donations will be given to the American Red Cross for local disaster relief.

Progress was monitored using a "Tower of Skittles," Kennedy said. The candies were added to a clear, thermometer-style tube to show the children's accumulated reading time. Pupils logged a total 328,477 minutes, Kennedy said, noting that fourth-grader Pate Moore led the way with 4,145 minutes read.

Last week, the children presented $2,742.36 to Red Cross representatives during an assembly.

Parting words

Robert Talbert says he has never been one to make New Year's resolutions. Instead, from the time he was very young, he would make a promise to himself each year.

"I told myself that I would be the all-American boy, and do the right thing, and be the kid that moms and dads would like," he said.

Even now, Talbert, a Fulton Elementary School physical education teacher, tries to live by that credo. "I can't always do it, but I try," he said.

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