It began as a desire to help people understand his culture and faith.
Abdelkrim Daiya, 35, imam of the Islamic Center of the Quad-Cities, taught introductory classes on Arabic language and Islamic culture during the fall semester at the Black Hawk College Outreach Center, East Moline.
"I want to serve this community by having these classes," Imam Daiya said.
He proposed the idea last spring as he worked with the college to set up a lecture for senior citizens and began fleshing out the idea for Black Hawk's global language and culture program.
"We are not different, but we are disconnected," Imam Daiya said of Muslims and others. The only way to connect is to sit down and listen to each other.
He said the Arabic classes aren't about fluency but more the mechanics of the Arabic language -- what it looks like, how it is read, and a few basic phrases such as "How are you?" and "What's your name?"
Imam Daiya's cultural class had sessions on the Prophet Muhammad, social justice and understanding Muslims and Islam. He said he was not preaching or trying to convert anyone, but just laying out facts about his culture and faith.
"Just presenting what we are, what is Islam, what are the Muslims," he said.
There were some misconceptions among the 13 or so students in the first class, he said. For example, the “s” in the word “Islam” is not pronounced as a “z” but like the “s” in “simple,” he said.
One student told him friends advised her not to take the class, describing Muslims as wife-beating terrorists. Another misconception he found was the belief that Muslims believe they must kill people of other faiths.
Jews and Christians often live alongside Muslims in Islamic countries, he said. "There have been times when Christians lived in peace with Muslims."
Some students signed up to learn more, in many cases, so they could refute or balance negative things they were hearing, he said.
One, a nurse, came so she could learn how to care for Muslim patients better, based on their cultural and religious views, Imam Daiya said.