GREENFIELD — Springfield lawyer Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, her head covered in a pink scarf, told a gathering of nearly 60 students and community members last week that as someone whose Lutheran and Baptist parents converted to Islam when she was a toddler, she has Christian grandparents and “was always in an interfaith setting,” including Jews in her extended family.
“We have the whole Abrahamic thing going on in our family. It was such a non-thing for me,” Amatul-Wadud told attendees of the hour-long program Thursday on “debunking common myths about Islam.”
Amatul-Wadud, who moved to Springfield from New York when she was 10 and graduated from Elms College and Western New England University, said that while she’s not a religious scholar, she’s been comfortable with interfaith dialogue for her entire life. It wasn’t until about 18 months ago that she began speaking at colleges and universities, as “an uptick” in rhetoric, as well as violence, was occurring against Muslims in this country.
“We live in this bubble and we don’t know each other,” said Amatul-Wadud, who recently helped defend a Muslim community against a planned 2015 attack by a Tennessee man convicted in February by a federal jury for threatening to burn down a mosque. “That’s not how we should exist.”
Explaining that Islam is a religion that incorporates early Jewish and Christian history, she said, “Sixty percent of Americans say they don’t know a Muslim, yet Muslims are probably the most vilified group in the past political election and definitely have been subject of some really interesting policy making post-election. Yet we don’t know what each other believes.”
Amatul-Wadud said Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions have ancient covenants with one another, promising “to always have each other’s back, to always protect each other during exercise of their religion.”