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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Leadership and Service

All-campus teach-in clarifies misconceptions about Islam

By Laine Walthers, Courtesy of the Mast

Lara Price

Members of the PLU community joined with local Muslims last month to debunk myths and stereotypes about Islam and its people at The Cross-Cultural Islamic Teach-In, sponsored by Young Democrats of Washington and Advocates for Social Justice. "I think we have a responsibility to try, as educated students, to not buy into stereotypes, and to educate others so people don't get hurt," said Beth Hughes, co-president of Young Democrats. Hisham Farajallah, a volunteer for the Sheikh Abdull Idriss mosque in Seattle, stressed that education can overcome misunderstandings and lead to peace. "Without communication we are not going to go anywhere," he said.

Lara Price, co-president of Young Democrats, expressed concern that broadcast news has not given an accurate or complete picture of the Islamic faith or its followers. "We need to realize there is a lot of diversity within the Islamic world," she said.

Farajallah agreed "the media has not been kind to Islam" since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Contrary to some reports, Muslims support freedom, he said. "We came by choice, and we became citizens by choice," said Farajallah, who has lived in Washington for 16 years and is an engineer for The Boeing Co. "I am here because of freedom."

When asked what he thought led the terrorists to act as they did, Farajallah said Islam does not condone killing. "I'm afraid to kill a bird; how they kill a human, I don't know."
When Muslims commit acts that are not in accordance with Islam, he said, it is not a shortcoming of their religion, but of the human being.

Farajallah clarified some confusion about the term "jihad," which has been widely defined as a "holy war," even though Islam is a peaceful religion. He also addressed misconceptions about women's roles in Islam. According to Farajallah, the sexes have equal rights but different roles. He said the mother is the most important person in a Muslim man's life. Farajallah outlined the five pillars of Islam: declaration of faith, prayer five times a day, pilgrimage to the first mosque in Mecca at least once in a lifetime if physically and financially able, mandatory almsgiving and fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan. The Arabic word "Islam" means complete submission and obedience to Allah.

"Islam is a practical religion," he said. "We have a saying, 'the heavens will not rain gold and silver,' so go out and work."

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