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When some countries began to ban the hijab of Muslim women and attack the Islamic dress code, Dr Larycia Hawkin, a Christian and former associate prefessor of politics and international relations at Wheaton College, Illinois, began to wear it in solidarity with Muslim women in the college.

She became a symbol of interfaith solidarity and activism at a time of Islamophobia and hatred running high in the country.

Professor Hawkins was honored for her many contributions to social harmony by the Interfaith Institute of Islamic Center of Long Island, New York, on October 8, where a discussion on the hijab, burqa, burkini and the Islamic dress code was also held.

Shaida Khan, a member of the Center, presented a slide show on hijab and other Islamic headwear prevalent in various parts of the world. She gave a brief description of the principal behind the hijab, how it is not compulsory in Islam and how it only represents modesty. She pointed out the fact that variations of the hijab are seen in other religious too.

This presentation was followed by a parade of ICLI volunteers wearing headwear commonly used in various parts of the world.

The Interfaith Institute is part of ICLI in Westbury, which was established in 1984, and completed a $5 million expansion recently. The institute was inaugurated in 2015.

Professor Andrew Morrow, the keynote speaker, delivered a passionate speech describing how Islam stands against everything propagated by ISIS and its terrorist activities.

Professor Farouk Khan, coordinator and the driving force behind the institute, provided a brief introduction to the institute from its inception.

Dr. Isma Chaudhry, ICLI's first woman president, and Dr Qamar Zaman, the chairman of ICLI's board of trustees spoke about the work by the institute. Reverned Thomos W Goodhue, executive director, Long Island Council of Churches, and also a trustee of the Interfaith Institute and jean Kelley, executive director, Interfaith Nutrition Network of Long Island and another trustee, praised the institute's achievements.

Dr Unni Mooppan, another trustee, agve a brief picture of the interfaith harmony that exists in his native state, Kerala. Dr Moopan explained how Christianity came to Kerala as early as 52 AD with the arrival of St Thomas, one of Jesus apostles and how Islam came to the shores of Kerala during Prophet Mohammed's (SAW) lifetime.

The synagogue in Kochi, he pointed out, was built almost 450 years ago; it is still well preserved, and an attraction for tourists. If the Hindus were not welcoming and accommodating, he said other religions could not have thrived in Kerala. U A Naseer, Veeran Kutty, Bala Ramanathan and his wife Rohini Ramanathan, Dr Sunil Mehra, Subash Midha and Dr Anila Midha, a former president of India Association of Lond Island, and Dr Harsha Reddy were among the attendees. Seema Rahman was the emcee.

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October 21, 2016


New York, USA
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