With the publication of his new book, a teacher at the Noor-Ul-Iman School in Monmouth Junction seeks to rid Americans of their misconceptions about the Islamic religion.
Manzoor Hussain, 71, has been teaching Islamic studies at the Islamic pre-kindergarten through-12th-grade school for eight years. The West Windsor resident has been working on his first book, titled "Islam: An Essential Understanding for Fellow Americans," for much longer, getting the idea for it in 1973.
That was the year he married his wife, Jana. In speaking with Jana's father, a Presbyterian man, he realized many Christians did not believe, nor want to believe, that Islam is a monolithic faith like Christianity and Judaism and that Muslims believed in the same God and prophets as followers of those two religions.
Jana converted to Islam upon marrying Hussain, and her father eventually came to understand the truths of the religion. However, the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, made it clear to Hussain once again that many of his fellow citizens did not have a clear view of Islam. In 2004, he began the writing process, and Vantage Press published the resulting book last month.
In the book, Hussain tackles what he considers to be the four major misconceptions about Islam, including that the religion is associated with hate and violence, that all women are abused and treated as slaves, that all followers are extremists or fundamentalists, and that they believe in a different god.
"When Muslims talk about Allah, they are talking about the same God," Hussain explained. "Once people understand that, then there is a lot of common ground. Then you walk the same path, and other things become less important."
In addition to clarifying the misunderstandings,
Hussain also discusses terrorism and Islamophobia. He also provides a concise history of Islam and its greatest thinkers in astronomy, law, physics, medicine, mathematics, philosophy and chemistry.
The last subject is one he was already deeply familiar with, since he received his doctorate degree from the University of California, Riverside, and worked as a senior research scientist in the chemical industry. Hussain has also worked for the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, as head of a unit of the International Atomic Energy Agency's laboratories and as a chemistry professor at The College of New Jersey.
When asked how he reconciles his scientific background with his faith, he points to the many scientific topics covered in the Quran, such as information about human birth and development.
"The Quran describes all the stages, and that is under no microscope," he said. "How did anybody know about this at that time? There are many scientific miracles in Islam."
Hussain said he decided to learn more about Islam so that he could teach his four children about their faith. He wrote the book so his family and the entire Muslim community could live in a more hospitable country. He is particularly concerned about the bullying of young children.
"They are growing up in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. They are subject to harassment on a daily basis," he said. "Why should any people in a free country have this kind of feeling?"
Hussain hopes his book is used to dispel some of the ignorance that surrounds many Americans' opinions of the Islamic religion.
"I teach patience because it is a weapon you can use to win any battle," he said. "And there is nothing better than educating people. How else are they going to learn? I wrote the book exclusively to bring awareness to people."