Homayra Ziad, a Muslim and native of Pakistan, is as upset as anyone about the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups that she says have threatened to undermine religious tolerance and have placed Islam under a critical microscope in the United States and around the world.
“This for us is a sword in our cultural and religious heart,” she said. “This is painful for everyone.”
But as a full-time scholar of Islam at the Towson-based Institute of Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, Ziad, 38, is not on a mission to fight terrorism around the world, but rather to help Baltimoreans better understand all religions and cultures, including Islam, as a way to “push forward” for peace among the unrest.
Through continuing interreligious programs, seminars and “conversations,” many of which Ziad is leading, “We can certainly have an effect on thinking through habits of mind that lead to polarizing,” she said.
The institute, founded in 1987 and formerly called Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, announced last week that it has changed its name to add the word Islamic. The 30-year-old institute, located on Dulaney Valley Road opposite the entrance to Goucher College, already has a diverse staff of Christian and Jewish scholars. It hired Ziad in September 2014 from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., where she was an assistant professor of religion with a focus on Islam.