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Muslim educator will address Breakthrough Project issues

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Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 10:00 pm

The Breakthrough Project, founded to combat prejudice and foster cooperation among the various ethnic and cultural groups which populate the city today, is embarking on a series intended to broaden public understanding of cultures which may be new to them.

Co-sponsored by the Lodi branch of the American Association of University Women, the project will host a series of speakers at the Sullivan room of the Lodi Public Library beginning Monday at 7 p.m.

The organization will begin the series with a presentation by Anees Ghani, a member of the Islamic community.

Ghani is the fifth daughter of nine children from a family of lawyers and judges. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Punjab, and later taught high school at Lahore, the capital city of Punjab, a province in Pakistan.

The city is a revered center of education and government, full of centuries-old buildings and historical places, and Ghani felt honored to be able to serve there. She loved teaching, but had to leave to care for elderly relatives and to raise her own family.

She re-entered the workplace as a public relations officer in the predominantly male Punjab Public Relations Department, and managed offices with about 30 employees, enabling her to travel and see much of this portion of Pakistan.

The first Pakistani woman government employee to attend a UNESCO study course in Japan, she has been affiliated with various welfare organizations in major Pakistani cities.

Ghani earned a master’s degree from Mills College, and in April of this year, she spoke at the fifth annual leadership conference there regarding polarity in Pakistani women.

She sees her mission as removing the negative burden on American Muslims created by the Middle East oil crisis.

Some of the issues she will cover are the misunderstandings Americans have regarding cultural versus religious issues within the Islamic world. For example, some local educational leaders believe that withdrawing girls from school in sixth or seventh grade is a religious requirement of Islam, when it is simply a cultural practice of some Pakistanis.

She will also address the issues of pro-life and pro-choice as they relate to the Quran, the religious manifesto of the Muslim religion.

Ghani says “Since World War II, America is most powerful nation in the world — whatever is the approved thought here is taken up by other countries, and this is an effect of globalization.”

She wants to educate Americans as to the distinction between religion and politics in Islam as well.

The Association of University Women will sponsor several more talks in the coming months, emphasizing education and understanding between cultures that have traditionally been at odds.

Lois Burchardt, AAUW women’s studies chairwoman, said “We want to wait and see what the reaction to this is, but we are eager to continue the program.” Breakthrough Project will be sponsoring some programs in March in conjunction with Martin Luther King day and Cesar Chavez’ birthday, and the group will be working on those. The next featured speaker will be a representative from the Hmong community.

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