In touch with religion

College graduate organizing Muslim group

College graduate organizing Muslim group

October 28, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD


World religions have always been Sultan Chaudhry's passion.

As a teenager, Chaudhry, 22, was the Muslim student who went to a Catholic school and played the Jewish Rabbi in the school play.

His interest in world religions carried over to college. Chaudhry graduated from George Washington University with a degree in religion and a minor in biology.

Chaudhry, now a student at the Hifz school, part of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland in Hagerstown, is getting in touch with his own religion.


As a student, he must memorize the entire Quran in Arabic, a process that can take years.

He also is organizing a Muslim Student Association for Washington County-area students.

"There needs to be an extracurricular, standardized group where Muslims and non-Muslims can come together and learn about Islam," said Chaudhry, who lives in Hagerstown.

The Muslim Student Association is a cultural group for college and high school students. There are 114 Muslim Student Association chapters in the United States and Canada, according to the association's Web site.

Chaudhry served as vice president of the George Washington University chapter.

Currently, there are no Muslim organizations for students who attend public schools in Washington County.

Chaudhry said he's planning to create a high school chapter of the Muslim Student Association that includes both public and private high schools.

Christopher Siedor, principal of St. Maria Goretti High School, said he and Chaudhry have discussed using the school as the club's center.

"As a Catholic school, they seemed the most open to this," said Chaudhry, who attended St. Maria Goretti.

Siedor said that while Catholic doctrines were at the core of the school's curriculum, the school had a duty to be inclusive of all religions.

"It would be irresponsible for us not to expose them on what's out there," he said.

Students are offered a world religions course when they are seniors, Siedor said.

"Goretti was the reason I decided to do a religion major," Chaudhry said. "It opened up a whole new world of the history of religion and international religion."

Though Chaudhry plans to be in dental school at this time next year, he hopes the chapter he organizes in Hagerstown will debunk stereotypes about Muslims and the Islamic faith.

"People hear on CNN that Shiites and Sunnis don't get along, so they ask me which one am I," Chaudhry said. "I say, 'If you can't tell me the difference between the two, then why should it matter?'"

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