Archive for Thursday, October 25, 2001

Speakers clear up myths about Islam

October 25, 2001

The evening of Oct. 17, the Eudora United Methodist Church basement echoed with sounds unusual for the Protestant church as Ahmad Alrumaih, spokesman for the Muslim Student Association at Kansas University, shared the Muslim religion with the Eudora community.

Holding a bilingual copy of the Koran, a blue hardbound book with elaborate, embossed gold decorative curlicues and the sweeping strokes of the Arabic alphabet, Alrumaih read a scriptural passage in his native Arabic with a lilting, sing-song inflection.

Ahmad Alrumaih from the Muslim Student Association of KU fields a
question from the audience at the forum on Islam at the Eudora
United Methodist Church.

Ahmad Alrumaih from the Muslim Student Association of KU fields a question from the audience at the forum on Islam at the Eudora United Methodist Church.

Even without knowing the language, listeners could hear the rhyming patterns of the verse in the throaty, lyrical language. When he read the translation of the passage from the Koran, the Muslim's sacred book, the audience could realize it dealt with Mary, the mother of Christ.

"When my grandmother reads this particular chapter of the book, she just cries," Alrumaih said. "I see the same crying every time she reads it."

Like many Muslims, including Alrumaih, his grandmother has worked on memorizing the holy book.

The audience of about 75 learned about this and other aspects of Islam at a forum sponsored by the church and the Rev. Jeff Shepardson. The Rev. Jane Ireland of St. Paul United Church of Christ was also in attendance to read a passage from the Bible about loving one's neighbor and loving God, showing a commonality in Christianity and Islam. Besides Alrumaih, Kansas University Assistant Professor of religious studies Margaret Rausch spoke about the historical background of Islam.

"We need to be a people seeking to understand," Shepardson said before he introduced the speakers. "Some important lessons we're going to have to learn are how to get along and respect differences."

Rausch then gave a short presentation about the history of the religion and the prophet Mohammad, who received messages from the angel Gabriel, and decided he needed to start a new religion. She explained how Muslims accept Judaism and Christianity, but believed that Mohammad's purpose was to reiterate God's word for a third time, just as Christianity had for Judaism.

Rausch also clarified the meaning of "jihad," telling the audience that the Muslim's use the word, which means "struggle in the cause of God," for many different purposes, including to explain their struggles to adhere to God's word on a day-to-day basis. Although some use the word to describe acts of terror in the name of God, Rausch said the word "Islam" means submission to God and finding peace therein.

Afterward, Alrumaih gave the ideas of Islam a more personal approach. He talked about how he explained the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to his two, 6-year-old children by reciting a passage from the Koran that explains how corruption springs up so that that people might turn to God.

The speakers then answered questions from the audience, including a high school student who asked why Muslims would crash planes if, as Alrumaih has said earlier, Islam prohibits suicide.

"Not everyone who calls himself a Muslim is a Muslim," he said. In God's eyes, Alrumaih said, killing one person is the same as killing a thousand. Similarly, saving one life is equal to saving a thousand lives.

Another audience member asked whether some Muslims viewed Osama bin Laden as a prophet, to which Alrumaih said no.

"Out of 90 million people living in Pakistan 10,000 support him," he said, referring to news reports of protests in support of him. "That's a very weak ratio.

Since Sept. 11, both Rausch and Alrumaih said, they'd been asked to give numerous speeches about Islam. At first, Rausch wondered why.

"These events had nothing to do with Islam," she said. "We have to do that teaching about Islam to show you there's no connection to it."

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