Seventy-four people, just one short of a record for the J.V. Fletcher Library meeting room, gathered on Thursday night to hear a presentation on Islam, hosted by three Westford Muslims.
Entitled “Meet Your Muslim Neighbor,” the presentation began with a series of facts and statistics about American Muslims, followed basic facts about the Islamic faith and a lecture by Mary Lahaj and a discussion period that coincided with a salat, or daily prayer service, offered to Muslims in attendance.
Lahaj, a Westford resident, serves as a Muslim chaplain at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Simmons College, and Groton School and the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland.
She talked largely about Islamophobia in the United States and the need to spread greater understanding of differing faiths and cultures.
In spite of the fact that her family has practiced Islam in America for over 100 years, opening one of the first mosques in Massachusetts, she told the crowd that even she had to fight internal prejudices she held toward others at times.
“Islamophobia is like a cloud above our heads,” said Lahaj. “We have to fight it.”
Months of planning were put into the event by hosts Mohammed and Amanda Zaman, both of whom sought to share a greater understanding of their faith to their neighbors in Westford.
Mohammad says that discrimination is higher in America’s surburban areas than urban ones, but he has not faced any instances of discrimination during his five years living in Westford outside of one incident during his work as a nurse.
Overall, he was pleased with the turnout of the event and hopes the dialogue between different cultures can continue.
“In the Koran it says something like ‘we didn’t make you one community, we made you separate communities so you can get to know each other’,” he said. “I think we fear each other because we don’t know about each other. The more we get know each other and get answers, the more I think Islamophobia will be resolved.”