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Q and A with Kahlid Choudhery

by Michael J. Solender

January 1,2011

Khalid Choudhery is President of Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte. He holds a graduate degree in Commerce from the University of Punjab in Pakistan. He has lived in Charlotte with his wife since 1992. They have three children.

What is the ISGC? Your mission? Criteria for membership? Please expand and provide a bit of the history of your organization.

The Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte was established to address the religious needs, as well as social needs of an ever-growing Islamic community in Charlotte and the surrounding area. Any Muslim older than 16 is eligible for membership.

The ISGC was established in 1978 to serve the Muslim community of Charlotte with their daily needs. Starting from just a few families it has grown to [several] hundred families. [Our center] houses a multipurpose hall with a basketball court, a weekend Islamic school, prayer space, and a cemetery.

How large is the Muslim population in the Charlotte region? How many mosques or places of worship are there?

There are about 10 to 15 thousand Muslims in Charlotte and five mosques in Charlotte.

How does the ISGC and the Muslim community work with the interfaith network in the Charlotte region to support the greater community? Can you provide examples of outreach activities that you conduct?

We conduct interfaith discussions with all religions. We have many connections with church [groups] that visit our center to have interfaith dialogue. Also we provide open information for students studying Islam. We invite them to visit our prayers and programs. This past Ramadan, we invited our surrounding neighbors of all faiths and hosted a dinner in their honor. We answered any questions they had about Islam. This program was a huge success and we received great feedback from the local community.

How do you and your members engage in constructive interfaith dialogue and work to build understanding among people in our community who are not familiar with, or may have misconceptions about, the Muslim faith?

We invite all people who do not have knowledge about Islam to our mosque with open hearts and we provide them with all the information necessary, such as flyers and books about Islam. Our community is [one of outreach] that does its best to teach others about the real Islam.

What are common misconceptions people in our area have about the Muslim faith? How do you and others in the Muslim community respond to these beliefs?

People will always have misconceptions about something or someone if they […] only experience negativity displayed by others towards the subject. [If] the media displays negativity about Islam, that is what the people learn. At ISGC we believe in teaching the people of Charlotte the real Islam and the beauty of our religion. We love to host people in our mosque to answer all of their questions.

What is your personal experience with acceptance of your faith in our community during the recent period of heightened tension in America subsequent to 9/11, and the more recent national debate surrounding the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero?

I personally believe this negativity displayed by the media is a good thing because it makes people aware of Islam. People aren't [ignorant] – they are educated, and have learned not to believe anything until it is proven by a source. So I see this as an opportunity where people search Islam to learn what it is really about, and they come to us to find out. And sometimes they even accept Islam.

A couple of months ago two men, grandson and his grandpa, converted to Islam in our Masjid. [They did this] because they saw the negativity displayed by the media towards Islam and researched the truth by contacting us. After seeing the real light of Islam, they accepted [its beliefs] with happiness. I personally believe there is nothing wrong with a mosque being built near Ground Zero as long as it is done according to the laws of this land. A mosque is a good thing in the community and causes no harm, but only benefits the Muslims and non-Muslims in the area.

What messages or information would you like to share with the broader Charlotte community?

I appreciate the opportunity to reach the Charlotte community and [address] confusion
about Islam. My message is that our center is open for anyone who wants to learn the truth about Islam, a religion of peace. Our mosque is an outreach facility and we have helped in many humanitarian projects including Haiti, the flood in Pakistan, and the tsunami.

We have talented youth that are going to lead us forward with the right message. We have a women's committee which represents the Muslim women of Charlotte. We love to participate in the Charlotte activities and will continue to help Charlotte in the future.

I would be more than happy to arrange a tour of our center and answer questions people may have. I can be contacted at choudhery1@yahoo.com.

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