A talk next Saturday at the Cesar Chavez Central Library in Stockton will offer a glimpse into Islam in an effort to improve communication and increase tolerance.

The event, “Understanding Islam,” is part of an overall push to get more information about the religion into the library system and, by extension, the hands of San Joaquin County residents.

“If you’re raised in the white middle class, you just don’t know very much about it,” said Mary Jo Gohlke, librarian and program coordinator for the Stockton San Joaquin County Public Library. “In the last six years, there’s been a lot of scrutiny of that culture.

“You want to understand your fellow citizen, and these people are our fellow citizens,” she added. “These people have been stereotyped, and I really hope we get away from that.”

The program will begin with an explanation of Islam’s belief system and practices before continuing with a question-and-answer period. The event will feature Tarek Mourad, a speaker and Islamic scholar from Santa Clara.

There has been a marked increase in books about Islam on the shelves of county libraries since 2001. Some of the literature has come through the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Library Project, which started in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as Americans began asking questions about Islam. The project works with community activists to provide books and other materials to libraries.


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