SEMO program to focus on Islam

Monday, November 29, 2004

WANT TO GO?

What: Lecture and panel discussion on "understanding Islam"

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Rose Theatre in the Grauel Building, Pacific Street and Normal Avenue

Admission: Free

By Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian

The images of war in Iraq on the nightly news paint a picture of murderous Muslims who hate Americans and thrive on car bombs, kidnappings and beheadings.

Most Muslims abhor such violence, says Dr. Tahsin Khalid, a Southeast Missouri State University faculty member and practicing Muslim from Pakistan.

"Killing innocent people is not for the sake of God. It's wrong." he said. "That has nothing to do with Islam."

Arab terrorists publicly justify their violent acts in the name of religion. But Khalid said in reality they're not promoting Islam. "Their religion is terrorism," said Khalid, who will lecture about Muslim beliefs Wednesday at a campus program called "Understanding Islam."

The event also will feature a panel discussion involving other area Muslims. They include: Khalid's wife, Naghma; Waleed Malik, a Southeast student from Pakistan; Shafiq Malik, owner of Fountainbleau Lodge nursing home in Cape Girardeau; Dr. Ismeth Abbas, a physician at Southeast Missouri Hospital; Rania Majed, a Southeast graduate student from Syria; and Dr. Amjad Roumany, a rheumatologist in Cape Girardeau.

The program is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Rose Theatre in the Grauel Building at Pacific Street and Normal Avenue. Admission is free, and the program is open to the public.

Southeast's social work department is sponsoring the program in cooperation with the university's office of international programs and campus ministries.

"The motivation behind this really is to bring students and the community into a little higher awareness of what Islam is all about," said Dr. Jack Stokes, assistant professor of social work.

Stokes worries that too many Americans view Islam as a religion of violence. "We want to dispel that kind of generalized idea," he said.

About one in four Americans hold anti-Muslim views, according to a survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The Islamic advocacy group released its survey in Washington, D.C., in October. The telephone survey involved a random sample of 1,000 American adults.

Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said Islam teaches violence and hatred, 27 percent said Muslims value life less than other people, and 29 percent said Muslims want to change the American way of life.

But more than 40 percent of respondents disagreed with such statements. Nearly 30 percent said they had no opinion.

The survey found the Americans most likely to have negative attitudes of Muslims were white, less educated, politically conservative men living in the South.

Khalid, an assistant professor of elementary, early and special education from Karachi, Pakistan, said Islam and Christianity share a belief in a single god.

The two religions also share similar morals, Khalid said. The Koran, like the Bible, forbids lying, stealing, adultery and murder.

Muslims are taught to respect their elders and value human, animal and plant life. Islam teaches its followers: "Don't waste food. Don't waste water," Khalid said. Charity also is an important part of the faith, he said.

Some parts of Western culture do clash with the Islamic faith, Khalid said. Muslims object to the nudity in Western movies. Muslims also abstain from alcoholic beverages, a practice that puts them at odds with many people in Western cultures.

But Khalid said that doesn't mean the two cultures can't co-exist. Alcoholic beverages are available in Pakistan.

"In Pakistan, non-Muslims drink and no one kills them," he said.

Even many Americans object to certain facets of Western culture, Khalid said.

"My neighbor says there's too much sex in movies," he said. "Even in the United States there are people who don't like alcohol."

Foreign policy focus

Muslims in the Arab world typically don't hate Americans, he said. "What they hate is U.S. policy."

The United States is unpopular in Arab societies because of its support for Israel, Khalid said.

Many Muslims also distrust American foreign policy, which they view as constantly shifting, he said. He pointed out that the CIA worked with terrorist Osama bin Laden in the 1980s in fighting Russian troops who invaded Afghanistan.

Since the terrorist attacks in the United States three years ago, some Muslim mosques have been targets of vandalism. But Khalid believes the plane-crashing acts of terrorism that shocked Americans and sparked the war on terror ironically have prompted some Americans to learn more about Islam and what Muslims believe.

Total strangers, he said, come up to his wife in the grocery store and ask questions about the Muslim faith.

"People are more curious," he said.

Khalid, who has taught at Southeast since 2000, patiently answers questions from anyone who asks him about the Muslim faith. He sees it as a natural extension of his job as a teacher. "I try to educate," he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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