“Don’t bother to attempt to stereotype Dr. Afridi. She is in a category by herself.” (The Interfaith Observer, November 15, 2016)
“Muslim Scholar, Looking to ‘Speak the Truth’, Teaches the Holocaust and Islam” (New York Times, February 20, 2015)
And now, as her new book, “Shoah through Muslim Eyes“, is published, (more on that below) Dr. Mehnaz Afridi’s self-description:
“I am a Muslim intellectual woman who teaches Judaism and Islam, a Muslim who seeks dialogue with Jews, a Muslim who sympathizes with Jews, and understands the need for the state of Israel.”
Needless to say, a sometimes lonely — and even dangerous — place to be.
So a bit of background:
From The Interfaith Observer: “In 2011, Manhattan College a Lasallian Catholic institution in Riverdale, New York, hired Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, a Pakistani-born Muslim, to head the Holocaust and Genocide Center and teach Islam and Religious Studies on their campus … She is determined to break the silence, to squarely confront Holocaust denial so that Muslims and Jews might engage in meaningful dialogue where every subject is admissible and on the table. Today, she serves on multiple [related] nonprofit boards.
At Manhattan College, Dr. Afridi connects students with Holocaust and genocide historical literature and artifacts as well as providing direct contact with Holocaust survivors and their families. She also teaches related curriculum in religious studies and is active in building interfaith cooperation in the New York community and well beyond.
The Interfaith Observer: “Her book, “Shoah Through Muslim Eyes” is guaranteed to raise eyebrows and will probably provoke new controversy, but Dr. Afridi’s objective remains inviolable: to see a real reconciliation come about between Muslims and Jews, and to encourage us to deconstruct the false images we hold about one another.”
Capsule summary of the book: “The author discusses her journey with Judaism as a Muslim. Her book is based on a struggle of antisemitism within Muslim communities and her interviews with survivors. Rejecting polemical myths about the Holocaust and Jews, Afridi offers a new way of creating understanding of two communities through the acceptance and enormity of the Shoah. Her journey is both personal and academic in which the reader can find nuances in her belief in Islam, principles of justice, and the loneliness of such a journey.”
However, it’s Dr. Afridi who, understandably, has offered the most direct summary of her work:
“If a Muslim asks me why I’m not teaching about the Nabka, then I’ll say we already know about it and what we need to learn about is the Holocaust.
“And if a Jew tells me, ‘Muslims are Nazis’, I’ll say, ‘Can we have lunch?’
“These are the people we have to engage.”