An educator with a mission to inform others about the religion of Islam feels his program “Exploring Islam” has been well-received by community members.

John Schultz has been teaching world religions for 40 years with the idea that education can dispel ignorance and fear. The First United Methodist Church of Brighton has been hosting Schultz’s three-part series, which concluded last night. Each session focused on a main component of the religion, including its history, beliefs, and Muslim practices. Schultz shared Thursday’s session with Shayk Hassan, Assistant Imam for the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton.

The meeting had about 65 people in attendance with plenty of questions for both men. The session’s leaders and audience discussed topics like Sharia Law, gender equality within the culture, the religion's compatibility with western society, and extremists' terroristic displays. Considering the Muslim population to be approximately 1.3 billion, Hassan says Islam cannot be represented by a few people and their “atrocious acts.”

The series has had significant attendance, according to church leaders who say the first session brought in about 80 people and the next two had over 60. Schultz believes many embraced the opportunity to learn and says he is heartened by all the positive feedback.

Brighton resident Gwynne Attarian and her daughter Anna attended all three sessions. Attarian feels the series was informational without being overwhelming. Brighton resident Agnes Hoshal also attended the full series and says she found it encouraging. Hoshal says it recognized the importance of being civil to one another and the need to connect.

Hassan says he appreciates the welcoming atmosphere at the church and the group’s open minds. Reiterating the need for education, Hassan says “people fear what they don’t know.” (DK)