Zarinah Nadir, Director of Admissions at the College of Law, is part of a community group that recently received a 2009 Diversity Award from the Tempe Human Relations Commission for working to promote an understanding of the city's Muslim population.
The Muslim Advisory Committee, of which Nadir is a member, received the Community Group/Organization Award because of its work in planning and producing the exhibit, "Jewel in the Desert: Getting Acquainted with our Muslim Neighbors." The exhibit is on display until April 3 on the first floor of Tempe City Hall, 31 E. 5th St.
The committee was formed to help the Tempe Historical Museum broaden its scope to a part of the Muslim community that works, lives and studies in Tempe. Members spent 16 months meeting regularly with staff and devoting hours of volunteer time to the project. The committee planned the goals for the exhibit and the main topics to be covered, wrote the text and supplied the photographs and artifacts and produced events for its opening last fall.
Nadir, a 2006 alumna of the College of Law, said she was honored by the award, and hoped that the exhibit would continue to spark dialogue among Muslims and their co-workers, classmates and neighbors who have other traditions.
"We didn't start this project for notoriety," she said. "The committee came together to ensure that the voices of Tempe's Muslims were added to the overall community discourse in order to build a better understanding among its citizens. So, receiving the Diversity Award warms my heart to know that this contribution was not only welcomed, but appreciated.
"This Diversity Award also signifies an appreciation for history as told by its participants. All too often, so-called objective third parties have taken the liberty of codifying the history of minority populations in America," Nadir said. "This was an opportunity to tell our own story and to open up the lines of communication between the Muslims and our neighbors."
Sadly, on the opening weekend of the exhibit, the Tempe Muslim community faced a major tragedy, when an ASU freshman and recent graduate of McClintock High in Tempe, who also was an active member of the Muslim community, died when the van she was riding in was struck by a drunk driver, she said.
"This senseless tragedy drove home another objective the committee hoped to achieve, and that is to demonstrate that, while Muslims add diversity, we are all in this together. We are a part of the community," Nadir said. "We worry for the safety of our children, are striving for education, and are committed to contributing to society."
Nadir is the committee's photographer/historian, and because of her collection of old photos and willingness to take new ones, the exhibit is a visually appealing oral history of Muslims in Arizona, said Dan Miller, the museum's Exhibits Coordinator. Nadir also helped produce an interesting slide show of Muslims, Miller said.
"It shows the community at prayer, at a wedding, at death, at sporting events," he said. "People just love it."