A First for Islamic Center of LI

On Jan. 1, 2015, Pakistani-born Isma Chaudhry will become the first female president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, a mosque and community center based in Westbury. Although the post is largely an administrative one, the fact that a woman is assuming this role is significant, writes Rashed Mian in the Long Island Press.

The center is undergoing a $4 million expansion to support the growing Muslim-American population on Long Island, and Chaudhry will be playing a role in overseeing and managing that expansion. Chaudhry, a Manhasset mother of two, will serve a three-year term as president of the Islamic center.

Chaudhry, sitting down in her office last week amid the booming and buzzing of hulking construction equipment outside, said she’s “honored” by the appointment, but also admitted to a few nerves.

“I’m very proud of the community who has supported me, I’m very proud of my family for supporting me,” she told the Press. “It is a lot of responsibility…it’s unique in itself that there’s going to be a woman president of a mosque, and I do respect the faith that the community [and] the members of the Islamic Center have put, and I’m very grateful for that trust.

Chaudhry has been a volunteer at the center for some years, then, as her children began to attend a private school, she reached out to help people and children at the school to understand Islam and Islamic culture.

Soon after, public schools started calling her. She would put together programs for teachers to help them better understand cultural and religious practices. Then colleges began inviting her to speak at interfaith panels.

“Things were very limited because of a limitation about music in Islam or limitation about a lot of activities,” she explained.

Chaudhry would ask herself: “How would I make it interesting for my own kids and still stay in that boundary of what is permissible?”

“Since it was a challenge for me, I could identify that it was a challenge on almost every Muslim family who were in that same situation with younger kids,” she continued. “And for the families who not to their fault were non-Muslims and had no idea about how Muslims basically lived, except for what was [fed] to them through media. And media bias is not something which is new or something which we have not known. We know how media can influence in so many detrimental ways without realizing the effect of that kind of propaganda. So, that was basically how I got involved with interfaith work.”

View a video interview with Chaudhry from the Long Island Press above.

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