HGI Director Committed To Expanding Interfaith Dialogue

Mehnaz M. Afridi, Ph.D., a scholar in Muslim identity and Jewish relations, was hired last summer as the director for Manhattan College’s expanded Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center.

Mehnaz M. Afridi, Ph.D., a scholar in Muslim identity and Jewish relations, was hired last summer as the director for Manhattan College’s newly expanded Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center (HGI) , and is about to wrapup her first semester with the College after hosting a variety of enlightening lectures and panels.

With Afridi’s scholarly commitment to the study of the Holocaust and genocide and years of dedicated work in interfaith relations, she was chosen to lead HGI in broadening its focus. Formerly called the Holocaust Resource Center, HGI expanded in July of this year to include helping to promote a better understanding among Christians, Jews and Muslims through interfaith dialogue at various programming and educational events offered for both the College and community.

A student-run panel analyzing the misperceptions of Islam in the modern world; a post 9/11 interfaith discussion with three women from different faiths; and a lecture with a senior historian and archivist from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), were just a few highlights during the fall semester. In addition, Afridi is organizing a film screening and discussion on The Lesson Plan: The Story of the Third Wave with another professor for early next semester.

She is constantly exploring ways to integrate the Holocaust with tolerance of other faiths, and as a result, is having the exhibition Besa, which means promise, come to the College’s campus next fall. The exhibit shows how Albanian Muslims are helping Jews, and it’s the first step of reconciliation rather than looking at the negative relationship between Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Afridi is also serving as an assistant professor of religious studies at Manhattan College and is teaching a course in Islam. In the past, she has taught at Antioch University, National University, American Intercontinental University and Loyola Marymount University, and also received her doctorate in religious studies from the University of South Africa, and her M.A. and B.A. from Syracuse University.

“In her public talks in academic conferences, in temples and synagogues all over the greater Los Angeles area, Dr. Afridi has dedicated herself to interfaith dialogue, the importance of the Holocaust and the critical importance of interpreting key Muslim texts accurately,” wrote Michael Berenbaum, Ph.D., director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust at the American Jewish University.

Since moving to New York, Afridi is preparing to publish her first two books, The Shoah Through Muslim Eyes and Orhan Pamuk’s Global Literature: Existentialism and Politics (co-edited by David Buyze, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Toronto), and is frequently presenting as a guest speaker locally and internationally. In fact, in October she traveled to Istanbul, Turkey to attend the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality (WISE) conference and moderated a panel on women and leadership. She also was the moderator at the Building a Global Muslim/Jewish Alliance panel at the 92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association on Nov. 17.

During the month of September, Afridi spoke at the In Good Faith: Stories of Hope and Resilience event, which was sponsored by ASMA along with the Cordoba Initiative and the Interchurch Center. She also joined other faith leaders at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, an Orthodox Synagogue, on Sept. 10 to discuss the principles of justice and commonalities of Judaism and Islam.