Attacks in Paris, Lebanon Highlight Need for Education on Religion

#Notinmyname. Hadia Tirmizi, the mother of a student profiled in my book Faith Ed., posted that Twitter hashtag on her Facebook page last week in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. She is Muslim. She lives in Wellesley, a Boston suburb, and knows the backlash that always follows when terrorists strike innocents and they are identified as Muslims. Mixed with that post in the same week were photos of her and her family celebrating her youngest son’s 10th birthday and photos of her and her husband, both physicians, on a vacation to Paris in a past year.

Her heart, like mine, like yours, aches for the victims of the bombings and shootings in Paris and in Lebanon in the last few weeks. But she, unlike many of us who are not Muslim, may have to bear more of the brunt of the aftermath as many Americans and others take to Twitter, Facebook, and news opinion pages and comment streams on articles to say just how awful they think Muslims are.

Here’s what she said to me in an interview in 2011 about how she and her husband are so painfully aware that many Americans started viewing them as people to fear after terrorists, who were Muslim, flew airplanes into the World Center Towers.

“The first day I felt like an outsider in America was a day after 9/11,” she told me, describing how she felt as she made her usual patient rounds in suburban Boston hospital. No one picked on her but she could not help wonder if people now looked at her differently. She and her husband struggled to explained to their older son, Zain, who was then just 12, about why people hated Muslims as Islamophobia grew in the US. They struggled to explain why a pastor in Florida would burn the Koran.

Today, I know the Tirmizis, like many Muslim parents in America, are probably facing more questions from their children about the hate they’re hearing toward Muslims.

Tomorrow night, at the Concord Bookshop, I’ll share some of the Zirmizis’ story but through the lens of education and how a sixth-grade class on world religions may have made a difference for their son and for his peers. I saw an Internet meme today saying that guns don’t kill terrorists, but education can. The answer, of course, isn’t that simple, but education can have a lot of power.

Thanks, as always, for reading. My most recent reading was at Temple Isaiah of Lexington on Sunday, Nov. 15, just two days after Paris was attacked. The event, the temple brotherhood breakfast, began with a moment of silence for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in France and Lebanon. Then, I gave a talk in conversation with senior Rabbi Howard Jaffe. The conversation, sadly, could not have been more timely. But perhaps what was important was this: It was a discussion that was not divisive. We couldn’t provide answers for getting rid of terrorism, but we could talk about ways we can at least help our children learn about other religions and figure out how to navigate and understand our increasingly diverse world.

Pictured above: Temple Isaiah’s Rabbi Howard Jaffe and me after the Nov. 15 brotherhood breakfast.

Pictured below: Photo of the attendees at the brotherhood breakfast. Rabbi Jaffe and I are at the front.

Upcoming Events:
Tomorrow! Thursday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m.: Reading, talk, at The Concord Bookshop, Main St., Concord.

Sunday, Nov. 22nd, 7:30 p.m.: Talk at Congregation Beth Elohim, 133 Prospect St., Acton.

Sunday, Dec. 6: 2:30 p.m. Limmud Boston talk. I’ll be one of many speakers giving a talk that day at an annual event that brings Boston’s Jewish community together for education and discussion. The event’s at Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill.

To see the rest of events for 2015 and the start of the list for 2016, go to my website, Click on events.

On a lighter note, I couldn’t resist weighing in on the recent to-do over the red Starbucks cup. Cognoscenti published my op-ed on the frothy to-do.

As always, thanks for reading! Hope to see you at some upcoming events. FYI, I will be doing some Florida events in January around Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Be in touch if you live near Tampa or Fort Myers.


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