Muslim Educator Dr. Nadira K. Charaniya is keynote speaker for Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion's Rhea Hirsch School of Education Yom Iyun (Day of Study).
Los Angeles - On September 25, students and faculty of HUC-JIR's Rhea Hirsch School of Education shared a day of study with Muslim educator Dr. Nadira K. Charaniya, Assistant Professor of Human Services for Springfield College. She spoke candidly with the attendees about her reactions to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11 and also gave an overview of Islam that helped everyone to understand the many facets of the religion. The attendees shared their emotions about the attacks, and the group discussed the challenges ahead in moving forward as individual citizens, parents and educators.
Current Students and Faculty share experiences and emotions regarding the events of September 11 while gaining a greater understanding of Islam.
Dr. Charaniya provided an overview of how many of the terrorist groups are able to influence people to follow their distorted view of Islam. She mentioned that "most of the terrorists grow up with a narrow view of religion." This is all that they know and they do not question. It is her opinion that people who carry out these deeds, which they believe to be in the name of Islam, genuinely anticipate that their actions will send them to paradise upon their deaths.
When discussing the attacks on September 11, Dr. Charaniya expressed her feelings of surprise, anger and sadness. She made it clear that most Muslims, including herself, are totally against what was done in the name of their religion. She pointed out that Islam means peace and that most Muslims acknowledge that "there is no doubt that the actions, philosophies and rhetoric of the terrorists are absolutely counter to what Islam is about."
Dr. Charaniya pointed out that the true meaning of the word Jihad is struggle and it can be used to describe many things ranging from fighting every day temptation, a defensive struggle for the right to practice one's faith, and - in the most extreme circumstances - an offensive struggle against oppression. She illustrated how Jihad has been interpreted narrowly by the terrorists to only mean holy way and that even the rules of war have been distorted as the terrorists have targeted innocent people, which is counter to the true interpretation.
The group gained a much greater knowledge of Islam and its many aspects. Dr. Charaniya discussed Muslim history and pointed out the differences between the various groups, illustrating that "Islam is not a monolith." As in any religion, diverse groups look at things very differently. Because of this, it is very dangerous to stereotype people and judge an entire group on the actions of a few people.
One of the great tasks the group discussed was for educators to teach students and community members of the importance of understanding and accepting others. Although she has been lucky enough not to have personally experienced much of the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment, Dr. Charaniya has relatives who have been threatened and harassed. She sees these attacks as un-American acts that contribute to the terrorists' cause by creating disharmony and discord in the very fabric of our society. Educators must impart the wisdom to their students that any attacks on people because of race, religion or ideology are wrong.