Anti-Islamic sentiment in the country swelled in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But for Mary Lahaj, Muslim chaplain at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, those energies had been taking root on US soil for decades prior.
She remembers the telephone calls that came flooding into mosques around Boston after airplane hijackings first began in 1985. Some callers politely asked for speakers to come for talks, hoping to deepen their knowledge about Islam. Others called to make negative remarks about the religion.
Islam "went from anonymous to terrorist," said Lahaj.
Lahaj will talk about the religion in an effort to combat what she calls Islamophobia at a symposium on Islam scheduled for this month and next at the Groton Public Library. Borrowing a phrase used as a slogan by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an educational and activist group with offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, Lahaj is calling her effort a "truth over fear campaign."
In her lecture, scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 6, Lahaj plans to discuss a variety of topics about Islam but hopes to focus mainly on Muslims' role and connection to American history and contemporary society.
Many people don't know, for instance, that Thomas Jefferson owned a Koran, said Lahaj, who is Muslim student adviser at the Groton School. Most people may also not know that early Muslims instituted a form of democracy in its early goings to elect its leaders, linking Islam indelibly to the democratic values of this country, she said. (MORE)