Amir Hussain teaches in the theological studies department at a Catholic university and has been married twice in Christian churches. He is also a Muslim, and he said his experience with both faiths allows him to address some of the misconceptions between the two religions.
Hussain will present “Little Mosque on the Prairie: Muslims in North America,” a free public lecture sponsored by MU’s Center for Religion, the Professions & the Public, at 7 tonight in the Reynolds Alumni Center on the MU campus.
The religion center booked Hussain because he has an important message to share about understanding faiths different from your own and about using interfaith dialogue to better understand your own faith, said Amy White, the center’s outreach coordinator.
Hussain will also talk about the history of the Sunni and Shi’a Muslim sects and explain what they have in common, and what’s behind their fighting in Iraq now, White said.
MU associate history professor Abdullahi Ibrahim will introduce Hussain and thinks listening to Hussain could benefit Columbia.
Relations between Muslims and the broader community have been strained by the FBI search of Muslim community leader Shakir Hamoodi’s home, and the search and closing of the Columbia-based Islamic American Relief Agency-USA charity, he said. While symbolic overtures at reconciliation have been made, there needs to be a strategy beyond public relations.
“I’d like to see Columbians warming up to the Islamic American Relief Agency unless it’s proven guilty in a court of law,” Ibrahim said. “You build confidence by risking a little bit.”
In addition to the lecture, Hussain will show an episode of “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” a Canadian situation comedy about a rural Muslim community that Hussain says shows Muslims in more diverse roles than usually seen on television.
Ibrahim said he is excited to see the comedy.
“It’s important to break this tradition of solemnity,” he said. “That’s the cause of all the tension. It’s time to laugh it out.”