For the first time this March, the Muslim Student Association at Walt Whitman High School hosted the Day of Unity Conference, bringing together speakers from 5 different belief systems to discuss their faith and inter-faith relations. Representatives of the sikhism, hinduism, christianity, islam, and judaism beliefs spoke with students in an open forum setting to teach about important and often misunderstood groups in our community using an authentic voice.
Introducing the day of presentations was MSA President and WWHS Junior, Zahra Choudry, who founded Walt Whitman’s Muslim Student Association. As founder of this new group at the high school, Zahra is in pursuit of forming a diverse, inclusive and accepting environment within her community through initiatives such as Whitman’s first Unity Day Conference. With help from co-president and WWHS Junior Simal Choudry, Simal has helped Zahra start MSA while providing a helping hand in the local masjid and muslim organization. Her goals are to stay actively involved in the community while representing Islam and being a part of the Huntington Muslim Youth Outreach (HMYO), helping to teach religion within the community.
During the conference, students had the opportunity to ask questions while reflecting on new perspectives gained from the day of multi-faith speakers. Nimrah Ishtiaq, a representative from Farmingdale College’s MSA, came to discuss Muslim Student Association after high school and how students can plan events and be more involved in their community. Afaf Nasher, a representative from CAIR-NY (Committee on American Islamic Relations), was also present and discussed prejudice that exists against Muslisms and ways we as a community can work to end prejudice globally.
The hope is that through collaboration and dialogue, we can create a more accepting climate for students on Long Island regardless of their beliefs. We thank each of our presenters for taking the time to share information with our students and to faculty advisor, Ms. Kristen Bradle, for helping to facilitate this event for the first time at Walt Whitman!
Below you will find information about each of our presenters from this year’s first annual Day of Unity Conference:
Inter-Faith Institution of Long Island
The Interfaith Institute of Long lsland (IFI-LI) was established and launched in October 2015. This institution engages Muslims and members of other faiths to promote interfaith understanding and harmony within our diverse community on Long Island and beyond. Most often, the best way to learn about a novel concept or unfamiliar idea is through the source itself. The IFI-LI provides dynamic and welcoming religious representatives to teach students about important and often misunderstood groups in our community using an authentic voice. For additional details and IFI-LI governance along with the current list of board members kindly visit the web site at www.jnterfaithny.com.
- Dr. Faroque Khan (Islam) is a physician who served as Chairman of Medicine at Nassau University Medical Center in New York from 1987 to 1999. Dr. Khan also helped establish the research center at King Fahd Medical City in Riyadh from 2006-2011 where he also served as consultant for King Fahd. Dr. Khan was the first Muslim awarded Mastership in American College of Physicians(ACP). Dr. Khan has held leadership positions, as a Regent of the ACP, as President of Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation, as President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), as President of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury and has served on the Majlis Shura of the Islamic Society of North America. He currently serves on the executive board of the NAACP Westbury chapter. In September 2013, the Long Island Press elected Dr. Khan as one of the 50 Most Influential People of Long Island, NY. In October 2014 the Long Island Council of Churches bestowed the Community Service Award on Dr. Khan. On October 25, 2015, Dr. Khan helped launch the Interfaith Institute of Long Island. Dr. Khan has received several awards and accolades for his pioneering work in improving interfaith relations on LI/NY and beyond. Dr. Khan currently serves as the chair of the interfaith institute's board of trustees.
-Robert Keeler (Catholic) manufactured paragraphs for Newsday for almost 42 years, covering politics and religion—the two subjects that people say you should never discuss at family gatherings. He is a cradle Catholic who briefly studied for the priesthood, but decided that his real calling was in journalism.
-Anu Bindra (Sikh)
-Sangeeta Kulkarni (Hindu)
- Rabbi Ilana Schacter (Judaism)
Farmingdale College MSA Representative: Nimrah Ishtiaq
As America’s premier Muslim civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has worked for more than 25 years to defend the constitution. The New York chapter is one of the busiest and most dynamic of CAIR’s thirty-five nationwide affiliates, defending, representing, and educating nearly one million Muslims in the New York area. CAIR-NY’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower Muslim Americans. They serve Muslim New Yorkers through legal advocacy, education, media relations, civic engagement, and grassroots mobilization. As a first line of defense, CAIR-NY protects New Yorkers who have experienced discrimination, harassment, hate crimes, and more, combatting Islamophobia and systemic discrimination in all its forms.
Executive Director, CAIR-NY Afaf Nasher
Afaf currently serves as the Executive Director for the New York Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, “CAIR-NY.” Prior to accepting the role of Executive Director, she served as Board President for the organization. Before shifting her focus to civil rights advocacy, she worked as an associate for the Law Firm of Rossi and Crowley, LLP, performing work in commercial litigation. She has delivered lectures, speeches, and interviews for educational institutions, including New York University, Fordham, and Columbia, and media outlets such as PBS, MSNBC, Newsweek, and the New York Times. Ms. Nasher obtained her Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law and has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Her involvement with CAIR–NY stems from an enthusiasm to challenge discrimination in all its forms, promote positive activism, and foster an understanding of the Muslim American identity.