Introducing Manhattan College’s Muslim Director of Holocaust Studies
I was very pleased and pleasantly surprised to read about this. I think it’s an important step in the right direction.
Whatever springs to mind when you hear the term ‘Holocaust educator,’ Mehnaz Afridi probably isn’t it.H/T to the Global Muslim Jewish Friendship Forum who tweeted this story. If you’re interested in following them, they’re @GMJFF on Twitter.
A Pakistani-born Muslim, Afridi spent her early childhood in cities not exactly known for their Jewish sensivitivies. For several years of adolescence, she attended a Lebanese-run school where crossing the word ‘Israel’ out of textbooks was an annual tradition. It’s a running joke that her father’s side of the family, from near the border with Afghanistan, ‘is sort of related to the Taliban.’
“I want to be a Muslim who’s writing and speaking out. We need to have dialogue on the hard issues”But appearances can be deceiving, a major theme of Afridi’s new job. Since the start of the academic year, the 40-something Islam scholar has served as the director of Holocaust studies at New York’s Manhattan College, a position that ‘felt like it was God-sent,’ she says. On the side, Afridi writes articles about the need for Muslim-Jewish co-existence, and has outlined a book called ‘Shoah Through Muslim Eyes,’ which she hopes to complete next year. Her mother, who once visited her in Israel, now serves as an informal ‘spokesperson’ against anti-Semitism in Pakistan, she says.
‘I want to be a Muslim who’s writing and speaking out,’ says Afridi, who prays five times daily and fasts during the month of Ramadan. ‘We need to have dialogue on the hard issues.’
On a chilly recent morning, Afridi somehow blended in and stood out simultaneously at Manhattan College, a Catholic institution that, despite its name, is actually located in the Bronx — specifically the famously Jewish Riverdale section. Clad in pants and sunglasses pulled back over a dark head of unconcealed hair, Afridi guided a visitor to the college’s newly renamed Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center — actually a book-lined room in the campus’ main library. […]