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Only in Queens can individuals learn about Islam in a community center known for its Jewish cultural and educational programs!

Imam Shamsi Ali, the spiritual leader of the Jamaica Muslim Center, will talk about the basic teachings and practices of his faith at the Central Queens Y in Forest Hills on Sunday, May 22, at 1:30 p.m. Part of an ongoing adult enrichment series, attendance is free, but there’s an $8 suggested donation.

Ali, who some call “Hip Imam” because of his fondness for hip hop music, will discuss the history of Islam, the variety of its beliefs and practices, and some of its controversial aspects, such as the status of women and fundamentalism. He will note his faith’s similarities and differences with Judaism and point out the two Abrahamic religions’ shared past. The event will conclude with a question-and-answer session.

Ali has a long history of peace activism. He grew up in a small farming village in Indonesia and attended Muslim schools in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where he was taught that Jews wanted to eliminate Islam and its practitioners by any means necessary. However, he moved to New York City and forged an unlikely friendship with Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder of the Hampton Synagogue, in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. They became close friends and passionate advocates for mutual understanding between their religions. They have participated in various interfaith dialogues together and even co-wrote the book Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues that Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims in 2013.

Though once known a the Central Queens Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association, the Central Queens Y serves people of all religious backgrounds.

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