Asima Silva Tells What It Feels Like To Be Muslim

Worcester Islamic Center

Worcester, 17 Rabi’ul Akhir 1438/16 Januari 2016 (MINA) – Growing up a Muslim in Rutland, Asima Silva was considered by her friends as exotic and she was celebrated for her individuality, The Telegram reported.

She excelled as a student, took part in extracurricular activities and even persuaded the school principal to have a Muslim give a benediction at her high school graduation.

But for her children, much has changed, and sometimes the questions they pose come from fear, she said.

On Sunday, before a crowd of about 125 people, Ms. Silva said she watched as events including the Gulf War and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the recent presidential campaign changed everything for Muslims. As the main speaker at a program at the Worcester Islamic Center titled “Understanding the American Muslim,” she told how she’d studied other religions during her time at Worcester Polytechnic Institute because she wanted to know why practitioners of each religion believed their faith was right.

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“I did choose to be Muslim after all my studies,” she said.

The program brought together Muslims and other members of the community, including police, local officials and curious followers of other religions, as well as a selectman, town administrator and lawyer for the town of Dudley, where a proposal for a Muslim cemetery has been a hot-button issue.

Some residents in Dudley have opposed the cemetery for a year and during public meetings have made less than tasteful comments about the religion.

Dudley town counsel Gary Brackett said he found Sunday’s event interesting and informative. He said he hadn’t realized the tenets of the religion are close to those in Judaism. Dudley Town Administrator Greg Balukonis and Selectman Peter Fox also attended.

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Ms. Silva explained that the five pillars of Islam and the six articles of faith in Islam both include God. Her religion recognizes prophets, encourages prayer and believes in a day of judgment. She said wearing a headscarf, or hijab, is for modesty, and whether a woman wears one is up to her. While some see it as a symbol of the Muslim religion, Ms. Silva pointed out that it is not unlike the traditional garb worn by Catholic nuns or the Virgin Mary in the many depictions of her.

With the recent election over and President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign statements about a Muslim registry or deportations for some practicing the religion, Tahir Ali said Worcester’s Muslims gathered support from Sunday’s event. While some Americans fear Muslims, he said, in turn, some Muslims are now fearful, too.

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“We need not to be fearful of this rhetoric,” said Mr. Ali, who is the spokesman for the Islamic centers of Worcester.(T/RE1/RS05)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)