Thursday, March 31, 2011

What do you know about Islam? Why not ask an informed Muslim?

The title of this Minnesota Public Radio story below is not quite helpful for me. So, I have changed it to the one above, “What do you know about Islam? Why not ask an informed Muslim?” I have met many muslims–and seen too many on tv spouting misguided doctrine they have picked up from con men–i.e. who can tell little difference between faith and tradition. [In addition, I know Christians who can tell little difference between traditions, ideology, culture and their faith.] So, find an informed muslim to talk to you.--KAS

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/03/30/hamdan/

Commentary
To learn about Islam, why not ask a Muslim?

by Hani Hamdan
March 30, 2011

Quite refreshing were new hearings led by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on protecting the civil rights of American Muslims, especially after a slew of anti-Muslim events within the past year or so. Those culminated in a House committee’s hearings on the “radicalization of American Muslims” a couple of weeks ago.

As glad as I am about Durbin’s hearings, I have to maintain that the way to gain the best understanding of Muslims in the United States starts not by listening to politicians or pundits, left or right, but by shutting them off.

The media will seek to focus on the most sensational aspects of Muslims, whether by focusing on examples of extreme views among certain Muslims or on examples of extreme discrimination against Muslims. Pundits will do the same. The results are more division, less understanding, more misconceptions and higher ratings for TV and radio.

Politicians will turn the issue into another means of forwarding their agendas and winning votes. The next election will be a good (i.e., dreadful) example of this.

In the midst of this ruckus, the main victim is the truth.

But perhaps the best reason for shutting off pundits and politicians who want to tell us what to think about Muslims is a simple one: We do not need them. We can do without them quite easily.

As individuals, we can develop our own understanding, better than that provided by any of the witnesses at the congressional hearings. The fact is, Muslims make no secret of their beliefs and methodologies. All you need to know about Muslims is just as readily available to you as it is to Muslims themselves. It’s not that hard.

First, find the closest mosques to where you live. I use www.islamicfinder.com, where I can enter my ZIP code and get a list of local mosques with their addresses and phone numbers.

Second, visit a few of these mosques. My recommendation is to go on a Friday either at noon or 1 p.m. (you may want to call ahead to check when the Friday sermon begins). That way, you get to hear the weekly sermon for yourself and check out what Muslims are being taught, and you get to ask the imam of the mosque directly if you have any questions.

The atmosphere of the mosque will look and feel different at first, but please pay no attention to your fear of the unknown. You can ask all the questions you want, no matter how “offensive” you may think they are, and I’m sure everyone will be happy to help you. Just lose your apprehension, approach someone and say: “I’d like to ask the imam a few questions.” No dress code or special gestures or sayings are necessary.

Some Mosques, like the one I go to in Dinkytown, have archives of live English audio translations of Arabic sermons; you can request a copy. Some have websites with the Friday sermons available in audio or video. Most mosques will also have literature available for purchase or borrowing.

Also, Muslim texts are readily available online, from the Quran to the Hadith to various writings by traditional and contemporary scholars, all translated into English. Google comes in handy. Just make sure the websites you visit are made by Muslims, since they will be the websites Muslims themselves use to get answers to their questions about Islam.

Which brings me to an important cautionary point. Religion cannot be understood simply by reading texts. It is a way of life, complete and complex with mental and physical components.

If I wanted to form a correct understanding of Christianity only by reading the Bible, for example, I’m sure I’d be easily misled by some of the violent verses within it. The best route to understanding religious texts is with a person who lives them — in this case, a Muslim.

I grew up in the Middle East, where the majority is Muslim. I do not recall a TV or radio show in which a group of Muslim panelists gathered to discuss the Bible in the absence of a Christian scholar or priest. Learning about a religion without asking a knowledgeable, practicing member of that religion is simply not possible.

If you would like to learn about Islam, I wish you luck on your endeavor. I know you will find all the answers you need.

—-

Hani Hamdan, DDS, lives in Burnsville and practices dentistry in Lakeville, Minn. He is a contributor and editor of Engagemn.com and a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network.
Comments (22)

Devoted members of a religion can only be expected to speak positively of it. It is like relying on GM to explain the dependability of GM vehicles.

Most Muslims have never even read the Quran and have no idea why more devout members of their religion commit horrible atrocities in the name of Allah. Instead they pretend that the radicals aren’t true Muslims, even though they are acting more in line with the example set by Muhammad.

I would strongly recommend a more objective source for learning about Islam.

Posted by Gina Roberts from GA | March 30, 2011 7:12 AM

Nice job, Hani, and good advice!

Posted by Marcia Lynx Qualey | March 30, 2011 8:32 AM

Well done Hani, I am sure this article will be very helpful for those who are serious about cultural diversity.

Posted by Huda Fay from VA | March 30, 2011 9:52 AM

Don’t buy into the hype. We’ve let tyrannical despots and their chummy Imams dictate what Islam is. Arabs represent less than 25% of the total population of Muslims. Muslims in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia FAR out number the radical voices of tyranny and their violent opposers.

Further, Muslim-Americans are redefining Islam with an emphasis on human rights, democracy, and personal liberties. Faith means so much more when you choose it!

Muslim Tea Party Patriots!
muslimteaparty.wordpress.com

Posted by Muslim TeaParty | March 30, 2011 9:59 AM

A very nice summary Hani. I wonder how long we Minnesotans will take to accept, fully accept, non-Christian religions. There are over a billion Muslims in the world and Islam is the globe’s fastest growing religion. Acceptance seems intuitive and quite necessary. I assume integration and acceptance will offer a significant learning experience for our young and old.

Some of the lack of acceptance (my impression) is the cultural divide between recent immigrants to this nation and the collective Minnesota population. Recent immigrants may come here escaping unbelievable horrors and oppression, additionally they have had little real time to assimilate into our nation and its’ culture. We have had the opportunity to fully integrate into Minnesota’s culture because we grew up in this nation.

Assimilation is more difficult when there are the compounding factors of language barriers, skin color body type differences, dress and other cultural differences, and real and inferred religious beliefs and practices.

I have found that the best places to learn about have been reading the Qur’an, visiting a Mosque on Friday, reading various books on Islam (I can recommend some) and from communicating candidly with a variety of Muslims. I mean a real face-to-face conversation with candor, vigor and approached with an open mind. Ask questions, you’ll get answers and you’ll learn that people are people, no matter the religion or the culture. Fathers love their children.

Posted by Brian Morrissey | March 30, 2011 10:21 AM

Sorry about the multiple posts. Here is the rest of my thoughts on the subject…
Everyone strives to improve self and spirit. We share more in common than many want to believe.

In communication, be careful, you may learn that the immigrants and many locally born Muslims don’t yet have “Minnesota Nice” (read that Minnesota Passive-aggressive) incorporated into their mores yet. You’ll get honest answers.

Let’s take the lead, grow up and communicate. We as a people need to become serious about cultural and religious diversity. Don’t copy and paste hate from the web. There are web sites/You Tube videos demonizing Christian and Jewish fanatics and extremists as well.

Meet real people with the same issues that you have, we cannot afford to further marginalize an entire group of our population. Remember there is but one true God. Islam, Judaism and Christianity worship this God. The same God. He and his Angles are watching and recording all of our thoughts and actions. The golden rule applies. Blessings to all, Brian

Posted by brian morrissey | March 30, 2011 10:24 AM

Indeed. Every non Muslim and Muslim should take the time to read the Koran and Hadith.

I did and I was appalled by the hatred, violence and oppression that was called for against, gays, women, and non Muslims.

You can argue all you want that the texts don’t matter. One need only look at Muslim majority countries around the world to see how these texts and sharia law are practiced.

Almost every violent act perpetrated by Muslims around the world was done BECAUSE of these texts. They all quote them regularly.

I am aware there are violent passages in other religions. Without exception, each of those religions has undergone a modernist reformation which has rejected those violent passages.

When was the last time someone was stoned to death for working on the sabbith or for adultry because of the old testament? Where is the christian priest or jewish rabbi that is calling for these actions.

Where is the Muslim Rejection of the violent supremacist passages in the Koran and Hadith?

Until muslims reform Islam it will be viewed and treated in the same manner as every other totalitarian fascist ideology.

Posted by herman ishkabible from new brighton, TX | March 30, 2011 10:46 AM

I get your points. So let’s start building huge walls between us for our safety. We should say that we just can’t “get there from here” so let’s split up peoples, especially split us informed and of superior intellect; from those inferior – less developed culturally peoples. Higher, stronger, longer walls will solve it all. Be well.

Posted by Brian Morrissey from St Paul, MN | March 30, 2011 11:09 AM

Walls already exist to provide for your safety. They are called laws and they stem from our constitution and government.

They are applied equally to all people in this country regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, and religion.

They do not punish or favor anyone based on religion.

It is illegal to:
Threaten, Illicit or commit violence against anyone
Rape
Steal
Fund criminal, violent, or terrorist activity
Enslave
Discriminate
Work to subvert our constitution and its protections

America is about individual rights.

You as an individual have the right to believe whatever you want. You can believe your religion entitles you to superior status over non Muslims.

Its the conversion of that belief into action that is a violation of the laws of this country.

The freedom of religion does not absolve you of responsibility for your ACTIONS.

There are many many Muslims in the world that want nothing more than to live peacefully with their non Muslim friends and neighbors.

The time is fast approaching where they will need to take a long hard introspective look at what it means to be a Muslim and what they must do to make Islam compatible with modern western liberal democratic countries.

Indeed. I do wish you well. It will be long hard road ahead for moderate Muslims to bring about the reform that is so desperately needed.

Posted by herman ishkabible from new brighton, TX | March 30, 2011 11:48 AM

” Instead they pretend that the radicals aren’t true Muslims, even though they are acting more in line with the example set by Muhammad.”

Find me examples of where Muhammad justified anything Muslim terrorists currently espouse and I’ll give you a smiley face on your assignment. Ridiculous hatred spew. Unbelievable. You’d have been first in line to close down Jewish businesses in Germany last century.

Posted by T K from mpls, MN | March 30, 2011 11:54 AM

Answer to Herman from the Quran itself on how to read the meaning of the text :
“He granteth wisdom to whom He pleaseth; and he to
whom wisdom is granted receiveth indeed a benefit
overflowing; but none will grasp the Message but men
of understanding.” (Quran 2-269)

Posted by Syed Adil from KS | March 30, 2011 1:28 PM

Answer to Syed:

“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. (Quran 2:191)

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (quran 9:29)

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement” (Quran 5:33)

I could go on and on, but there is a character limit for comments.

You can now expect the next posts to be full of ad hominem attacks, deflections and obfuscations.

Some likely replies will be:
-The Quotes are taken out of context
-The translations are invalid
-You can only understand the Quran in original Arabic
-Only Muslims are able to interpret the texts

Read the Quran and make your own judgement on the wisdom contained within.

Posted by herman ishkabible from new brighton, TX | March 30, 2011 2:52 PM

Muhammad said “I have been ordered to fight against men until they say there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”

Osama bin Laden said exactly the same thing shortly after 9/11.

Both men slaughtered others in the name of advancing Islamic rule.

Posted by Gina Roberts from GA | March 30, 2011 3:09 PM

Herman, I could point out just as many violent, offensive, and intolerant passages in the Bible or almost any other religious text. You made the weak link that other religions have rejected those violent passages, but if you’re only basing your understanding of Islam on the Koran and don’t trust the testimonial of Muslims, as Hani Hamdan suggests, how can you know if that has also been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims?

There will always be extremists in every religion, especially Christianity and Islam, simply because those are the two largest in the world. And if you’re looking for institutionalized Christian violence, remember the crusades? Or more recently, when a certain ex-president proclaimed that God was on our side in Iraq?

All you’re doing here is raising more fear and division without considering the narrow-mindedness of your criticisms.

Posted by Mick Jansen from MN | March 30, 2011 3:28 PM

Herman, I could point out just as many violent, offensive, and intolerant passages in the Bible or almost any other religious text. You made the weak link that other religions have rejected those violent passages, but if you’re only basing your understanding of Islam on the Koran and don’t trust the testimonial of Muslims, as Hani Hamdan suggests, how can you know if that has also been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims?

There will always be extremists in every religion, especially Christianity and Islam, simply because those are the two largest in the world. And if you’re looking for institutionalized Christian violence, remember the crusades? Or more recently, when a certain ex-president proclaimed that God was on our side in Iraq?

All you’re doing here is raising more fear and division without considering the narrow-mindedness of your criticisms.

Posted by Mick Jansen from MN | March 30, 2011 3:31 PM

@Mick I have no doubt you can find violent, offensive, and intolerant passages in other religions.

I have in fact, already said that earlier, and I agree, they are terrible and I fully reject their validity in this modern age.

As have the leaders, practitioners, and communities throughout the world.

There, I have rejected those violent passages. Now its your turn…

Now try rejecting it in a majority Islamic country. Your penalty for questioning any portion of the Quran is Death!

BTW. I am sure your aware of this, but I thought it might be worth mentioning that the crusades happened more than 800 years ago. Is that even remotely relevant today? Not 100 years go in america, unspeakable atrocities were perpetrated on minorities in violation of the very constitution I hold so dear. So there is not one place in the world that can point at their history and claim innocence. That being said, we are talking about the present time as in the last 10 years and forward.

In the present time, where is there open calls by Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. to commit violence on other faiths without full throated opposition from the vast majority of those religions.

As for testimonials from Muslims about Islam.

If you mean your imam and congregation openly and actively rejecting the violent portions of the koran and hadith, then yes, by all means, I would LOVE to hear that. That would go a very long way towards bringing Islam into the 21st century

Posted by herman ishkabible from new brighton, TX | March 30, 2011 4:08 PM

Because your religion encourages you to lie. It also condones terrorism, rape, and slavery. If you want to debate me on this, just show up here.

http://loganswarning.com/

Posted by Christopher Logan from Las Vegas, NV | March 30, 2011 4:41 PM

I don’t get this stance about “If only they would reject and disavow the violent sects of Islam, everything would be okay!” Why are they guilty until proven innocent? The fact is that the vast majority of Muslims do reject violence, but no one seems to want to listen.

Posted by Mick Jansen from MN | March 30, 2011 4:53 PM

@Mick. Sorry, I ran out of characters to address your comments fully. :)

Let me start by saying, I am no fan of G.W. Bush. No doubt, his imperfections will be scrutinized to no end for many years to come.

Equating his PERSONAL belief that god was on his side in calling for war in Iraq with the 1400 years of never ending war on non believers is quite a stretch.

He was elected by a plurality of citizens of this country. His authority to wage war was checked and approved by the congress which was also elected by a plurality of citizens. Everyone of those elected officials can be removed from office by impeachment or by defeat in the next election.

Our ability to challenge and reject his reasoning is not based on any religion or religious affiliation.

So, you can believe if you want that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the result of the new testament, but you will be hard pressed to find a plurality of Americans that would support that belief.

In face we can merely look at the 1st ammendment to the constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We are at war, because Islamists have declared war on us. They did so, because they took the time to read the Koran and Hadith.

Posted by Herman Ishkabible from new brighton, TX | March 30, 2011 5:26 PM

@Mick I am not asking you to reject a sect (violent or not) of Islam.

I am asking you to accept that there are parts of the koran and hadith that are no longer compatible with the modern world.

With that acceptance I expect your leadership, community, media representatives, to actively and openly work to eradicate those beliefs in your mosques, communities, and families. Both publicly and privately.

Until the Muslim community comes to accept there is a problem with their ideology and religious texts, there will not be a solution and full social acceptance.

I am not asserting that Muslims are guilty of anything. As I said, you can not be guilty of belief, only actions. We are not imprisoning Muslims for belief in jihad, only for actively practicing jihad. Actions = Guilt

No one is asserting that the majority of Muslims (in America) are in favor of violence.

Pew polls in the middle east offer a different assessment but that is a separate issue.

This seems to be the most common complaint and issue I hear coming from Muslims today. There is a huge difference between “Muslim” and “Islam”

The west has a problem with “Islam” and what it teaches as defined in its holy books, and as its practiced throughout the world.

Just as there were many good and non violent Japanese during WWII, that did not invalidate the violent ideology practiced in the shinto religion.

It is time for Introspection.

Posted by Herman Ishkabible from New Birghton, TX | March 30, 2011 5:49 PM

Anyone can find anything….

The Protestent arm of Christianity was initiated by someone:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/Luther_on_Jews.html

Posted by Brian Morrissey from St Paul, MN | March 30, 2011 5:52 PM

@Brian

Related to your link:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/Luther_on_Jews.html

An interesting link. I am afraid I don’t have the time to dig deep into another religion at this moment. If the Lutherans start setup 50+ theocracies and start committing regular acts of terrorism around the globe, I might reconsider.

I found the last sentence of the first section particularly relevant here:

“In 1994, the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America rejected Luther’s anti-Semitic writings.”

See how easy that was.
Martin Luther’s reformation underwent another reformation as recently as 1994.
I somehow doubt that the vast majority of anti-semitism stems from Martin Luther though.
Last time I checked, the Lutherans have not been calling for the destruction of Israel and the genocide of Jews world wide.

http://eslkevin.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/americans-and-their-leaders-need-to-consider-implement-a-set-of-concrete-recommendations-for-the-u-s-government-to-combat-anti-muslim-bigotry-and-hate-crime-at-home/

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