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News from Delaware Valley 
Nasim Hassan

Jan. 2002  The winter in Delaware valley is quite warm.  The first snow of this season came after the middle of January.  The temperature continues to come back up again in the forties.  After September 11 incidence, a dialogue has started between people belonging to various religions.  American Muslim Society  (AMS) in Delaware valley had a number of group meetings where Christians, Jews and Muslims were invited to share ideas.  These meetings were held in Islamic Foundation located in Valley Forge area in Pennsylvania.  A large number of people showed up in these meetings.  AMS also distributed books on Islam to the people of other faiths.   Dr. Iqbal Shaikh organized a meeting inviting people of various religions in Delaware.  Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, and Sikhs in addition to Jews and Christians attended this meeting.  It appears that average American is interested peace, tolerance, harmony and dialogue of civilizations instead of clash of civilization as highlighted by Prof. Huntington.  In this meeting the atmosphere was very cordial.  The format of this meeting was very informal.  A Sikh, Hindu or a Christian introduced salient features of his or her religion and then answered questions from the audience.  I believe that such meetings have become necessity so that people can come face to face with people of other faiths and freely ask questions to dispel doubts and misgivings.
America professes to be a secular country.  However the secularism does not mean lack of religious activities.  Here everyone is free to practice any religion.  Every city across
USA has a number of places belonging to various religions.  Perhaps Muslims in this country are most religious people.  Every Friday, the Mosques are full.  Sometimes a police officer is hired to direct the traffic during prayer hours.  So far the reaction of average American to the events in South Asia  is almost non-existent.  Sometimes it seems that only Indians and Pakistanis are perhaps the only people interested in South Asia.  Indians and Pakistanis have very good relations in the Delaware valley.  However, it is not true in large cities such as New York, Houston and Chicago.  In the Delaware Valley area, majority of first generation immigrants are professionals.  Gradually, other people doing businesses have started to trickle in this area.  These professionals have developed good relations over a period of time. After living in the USA, it looks like that people in South Asia can also live in peace and harmony.  Every person here has his or her own believes and continues daily struggle in life.
Not long ago, average person in the USA knew very little about Pakistan or Afghanistan.  Hardly anyone heard about Muslim holy days.  A number of people thought as if there is only a denominational difference in religion.   Many Christians here consider Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist and Anglican as separate religions.  These days every newspaper, radio and television has information about Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  Most of the people here form their opinion by watching TV programs.  Some TV programs have focussed on Afghanistan of Taliban regime.  If any person watches these programs, then his opinion about Taliban and Islam becomes highly biased.  General public opinion about Pakistan is positive.  If Pakistan did not join the coalition, then negative fall out would have impacted all Muslims in the USA.  The people in other countries may have a different opinion about Pakistan’s foreign policy but most of Pakistanis here seem to agree with President Musharraf’s actions in relation to Afghanistan and India.
Pakistani community is most active in communicating ideas to other faiths.  They are in the forefront of emerging interest concerning participation in American political process.  Indian Muslims are very active in religious activities.  The reason could be that Pakistanis learn very quickly from Indian community.  We hope that South Asia ushers in an era of peace instead of continued social and political turbulence.

   
   


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