Many Amer­i­cans adopted false impres­sions of Mus­lims after the Sep­tember 11 ter­rorist attacks, said Muhammad Ali-​​Salaam, the former deputy director of spe­cial projects for the Boston Rede­vel­op­ment Authority, who con­verted to Islam in 1975.

Speaking at the Arab, Muslim and Sikh Cul­tural Aware­ness Pro­gram in the Behrakis Health Sci­ences Center on Tuesday, Ali-​​Salaam told some two-​​dozen mem­bers of the North­eastern com­mu­nity, “People thought all Mus­lims wore tur­bans, had brown skin and were most likely asso­ci­ated with Afghanistan or the Middle East.

The stereo­type of what a Muslim is,” he said, “doesn’t hold water.”

The event pro­vided insight into the cul­tural, reli­gious and his­tor­ical tra­di­tions of Arabs, Mus­lims and Sikhs, said Naomi Thompson Hall, the asso­ciate director of the Office of Insti­tu­tional Diver­sity and Equity, which spon­sored the program.

The pre­sen­ta­tion,” she said, “is part of an on-​​going dis­cus­sion about diver­sity, reli­gion and being respectful.”

Sikhs in America, said Jaswant Singh Chani, a vol­un­teer for the Sikh Amer­ican Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund, were vic­tims of more than 600 hate crimes in the after­math of 9/​11. In one case, a gunman in Ari­zona who pro­claimed ”I stand for America all the way,” fatally shot the Sikh owner of a Chevron gas station.

Chani blamed the hate crimes on a mis­con­cep­tion. TV news reports, he said, “showed Osama bin Laden wearing a turban, which led some people to believe that anyone who wears a turban is a ter­rorist.” The Tal­iban and the Sikhs wear tur­bans in dif­ferent ways, said Chani, who noted that the tra­di­tional head­wear “rep­re­sents equality and egalitarianism.”

Sikhism, he said, was founded in 15th cen­tury Punjab, India, and is the fifth largest reli­gion in the world, with more than 24 mil­lion followers.

Many people in the audi­ence were sur­prised to learn that more than 83,000 Sikh sol­diers were killed in the two World Wars. “Sikhs believe in human rights,” Chani said. “When there is an atrocity, we will stand up and fight.”

Sara Rivera, an admin­is­tra­tive assis­tant for the Latino Stu­dent Cul­tural Center, learned that Islamic women are allowed to vote and required to pursue an education.

Now, when someone makes a false state­ment,” she said, “I’ll be able to say, ‘that’s not true.’”