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At the University of Northern Iowa, It’s Time for Islam 101

by Hugh Fitzgerald

“Muslim students to discuss hijab, jihad during ‘Islam 101,’” by Amie Steffen, The Courier, November 12, 2018:

To someone who isn’t Muslim, or doesn’t know anyone who practices Islam, the concept of “jihad” may sound bad.

To Muslims, “jihad” isn’t negative at all. But despite more Muslims joining the Cedar Valley [sic] each year, the disconnect between Islamic and non-Islamic communities persists.

We can guess exactly how “Jihad” will be presented to a non-Muslim audience at the lecture called Islam 101. Attention will be focused on the spurious hadith in which Muhammad, returning home from fighting, is said to have exclaimed that he was returning from the “lesser” Jihad of combat to the “greater” Jihad of personal moral struggle. Muslim apologists love to quote these words attributed to Muhammad, but they never tell us it’s based on a very questionable hadith, with a weak chain of narration (isnad).

Nadir Khan believes a lack of education is the issue, and his group has come up with a solution.

Islam 101, organized by the Muslim Students Association of the University of Northern Iowa, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday [November 14] at the Mocker Union Ballroom on UNI’s campus.

The lecture will feature two speakers: Dem Kazkaz, a Syrian-American activist and president of the Masjid Al Noor Islamic Center in Waterloo; and Miriam Amer, a Lebanese-American activist and founder of the Iowa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“The community is getting bigger,” Khan, president of the 25-member MSA, said. “Due to the political climate, and seeing all that is happening, this helps to bridge the gap between groups.”

Topics discussed will include the actual meaning of jihad, the importance of the hijab, fasting during Ramadan, what Islam teaches about humanity and the shared brotherhood between Christianity and Islam.

The “actual meaning of Jihad” to be conveyed will of course not be that which is accepted both by Jihadis around the world, and by mainstream Muslims, too. Nor will it be that presented by thousands of Qur’anic scholars and commentators. For Jihadis, mainstream Muslims, and Qur’anic commentators, Jihad means warfare against the Infidels, until they are killed, or converted, or they accept the permanent status of dhimmis, subject to a host of onerous conditions, including payment of the Jizyah. The “actual meaning of Jihad” the Muslim speakers will offer will be that of a “personal moral struggle,” based on that single weak hadith in which Muhammad returns home from the battlefield, declaring that he has returned from the “lesser” to the “greater” jihad of domestic life.

The “importance of the hijab” presentation will discuss the function of cover — from the simple hijab, a kerchief or foulard that covers only the hair, to the full covering provided by the chador (in Iran), the burka (in Afghanistan), and the niqab (in Saudi Arabia), where a woman is totally covered save for a cloth grill over her face (with the burka), or eye-slits (with the niqab). These types of cover will be discussed as the  means to prevent Muslim men from being unduly aroused, by hiding the wearer’s physical beauty. These various covers will be presented, unsurprisingly, not as being anywhere imposed on women by men, but as freely chosen by Muslim women.

As for the fasting during Ramadan, there is no need to misrepresent it. Ramadan is simply a way for Muslims to demonstrate, by observing a month of strict day-time fasting, the strength of their commitment to the faith.

In discussing  “what Islam teaches about humanity,” the Muslims delivering the Islam 101 talk will pass over in silence the Qur’anic division of all mankind into Believers and Unbelievers, Muslims and non-Muslims. According to Qur’an 3:110, Muslims are “the best of peoples,” while Qur’an 98:6 calls non-Muslims “the most vile of creatures.” That is the most significant “teaching about humanity” to be found in Islam.

The discussion of “the shared brotherhood between Christianity and Islam” will of course require that many more Qur’anic verses be ignored. The verses that command Muslims “not to take Christians or Jews as friends, for they are friends only with each other” (5:51)  paints quite a different picture of the so-called “shared brotherhood” between Christianity and Islam; indeed, it undermines the idea completely. So do 3:110 and 98:6, with  their stark distinction between Muslims, called “the best of peoples,” and non-Muslims, called “the most vile of creatures.” A  “shared brotherhood” could only be achieved by ignoring important verses in the Qur’an. How likely is it that devout Muslims would do that?

And where do we see, in real life, this “shared brotherhood”? In the endless attacks on Christian churches and worshippers in Pakistan? In the death sentence, and eight years of prison, endured by Asia Bibi? In the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian Minister for Minorities, who dared to attack the blasphemy law that was used to condemn Asia Bibi? Is that “shared brotherhood” displayed in the hundreds of thousands of Pakistani Muslims who came out on the streets, after Bibi’s acquittal, to bay for her blood? Do we see that “brotherhood” of Christians and Muslims in the attacks, even in supposedly “moderate” Indonesia, on Christians, including the decapitation of Christian schoolgirls? Is this “brotherhood” visible in Saudi Arabia, where Saudis are forbidden to practice Christianity, and where even the foreign Christians are forbidden to worship publicly, and must do so only behind closed doors? Bibles, crucifixes, and other Christian symbols are prohibited; Christian clergy are forbidden entry to the country. Even the most innocuous of activities are punished. A group of Korean nurses, softly singing Christmas carols in their own rooms, behind closed doors, were overheard by the religious police, and were promptly expelled from the country.

Is the “shared brotherhood” of Christians and Muslims to be found in Iraq, where the Christian population has gone from 1.5 million in 2003 to 250,000 today, a country where, the Anglican Canon Andrew White now says, “Christianity is dead”? Why did the Christians leave Iraq? Once Saddam Hussein, who had been their protector, was overthrown, Muslims of both sects — Sunni and Shi’a — promptly began to attack at will the now unprotected Christians. Or is that “shared brotherhood” to be found in Lebanon, where the Maronite community has been in steady decline ever since the Lebanese Civil War, during which it defended itself mainly against  the Sunni Muslims, and now finds its major foe to be the Shi’a Muslims of Hezbollah? In Egypt, where is that “shared brotherhood” when Muslims attack Coptic Christians, bomb their churches, riddle with machine-gun fire buses in which Copts are traveling to and from pilgrimage sites? Where, in any of these countries, have Muslims turned out en masse — or even turned out at all — to protest the mistreatment of local Christians by local Muslims? The answer is: nowhere. Nowhere can this “shared brotherhood” of Christians and Muslims be found.

Islam 101 comes on the heels of last semester’s interfaith panel, “A Rabbi, A Pastor and An Imam: Stronger Together,” which Khan said brought out around 300 people to discuss the similarities and differences between Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

This Interfaith propaganda will inevitably include many of the following points:

First, that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are the “three great monotheisms.” Nothing will be said about how Muslims regard many Christians as  guilty of shirk, or polytheism, because of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Second, that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are the “three great abrahamic faiths.” Just how significantly Islam’s version of the story of Abraham differs from that of the other two “abrahamic faiths” will not be addressed.

Third, that Muslims revere Jesus “as a great prophet.” There will be no mention of the denial, in Islam, of His divinity.

Fourth, that Mary, too, is revered in Islam, that Sura 19  is named after her, and that “Mary” (“Mariam”) is mentioned more frequently in the Qur’an — 70 times — than in the New Testament. But the Muslim apologists are unlikely to admit that she is only a righteous woman, neither a prophet nor the mother of the Son of God.

As for “fasting during Ramadan,” that will be accurately described as a month-long fast, during the day, that offers Muslims a way to demonstrate the strength of their commitment to the faith.

“I think it [Islam 101, two one-hour lectures by two Muslims] will be a great opportunity for those who don’t know much about Islam or don’t personally know Muslims,” Khan said.

Food will be catered from nearby Mirch Masala Grill, and a question-and-answer period will follow each speaker. For those who want to test their newfound knowledge, the Center for Multicultural Education will have trivia directly following the lecture.

An evening of sanitized Islam, carefully prepared by Muslims well-versed in the arts of taqiyya and tu-quoque, And accompanied by that essential come-on and emollient — free food.

That food, representing one or more Muslim cuisines, is a sine qua non of these Open Mosque Nights and Ask-A-Muslim Anything events. Sometimes it’s a sampling of many Muslim cuisines. In this case, the food provided by the “Masala Grill” is apparently is to be that of South Asian cuisine. Hungry students — are attracted to these events by the promise of exotic free food. The food also puts them in a receptive, cheerful mood, more likely to accept what they are told by their kind hosts.

The little game of “trivia” that ends the evening, “for those [visitors]who want to test their newfound knowledge,” will provide them with the illusion that they have learned a great deal. It’s not hard to guess what kinds of questions will be asked, nor the right “answers” that will be supplied to them by their Muslim hosts.

Here are 22 questions that come immediately to mind, with the answers likely to be given:

1. What are the Five Pillars of Islam?

Shahada, Salat, Sawm, Zakat, Hajj.

2. What is “Sawm”?

The obligatory fasting, including the month-long daytime fasting during Ramadan.

3. What is the “Shahada”?

The Profession of Faith: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.”

4. What does someone have to do to become a Muslim?

Recite the Shahada, ideally in the presence of a Muslim witness. Nothing else is needed. Muslims do not want to make it hard for others to join them. That would be unfair.

5. How often, and in what manner, are Muslims required to pray?

Prayer, or “Salat,” refers to the five daily prayers, when Muslims repeatedly prostrate themselves. The first prayer begins before sunrise and the last one after sundown, at night. Worshippers are required to first perform ablutions, to ensure the cleanliness, especially of their hands and arms. The worshiper starts from a standing position, facing Mecca, bows three times, then prostrates himself, still facing Mecca, and ends in a sitting position. During each posture he recites or reads certain verses, phrases, and prayers. He then repeats this series, but now beginning from a sitting position,

6. How important is Mary to Muslims?

Mary, or Mariam, is held in great esteem by Muslims. She has an entire sura named after her. Another sign of her importance in Islam is that she is mentioned more often — 70 times — in the Qur’an, than in the New Testament.

7. What do Muslims think of Jesus?

They revere Jesus as a prophet. Jesus is the greatest prophet next to Muhammad.

8. How many Muslims are there in the world?

Between 1.6 and 1.8 billion people are Muslims.

9. How long have Muslims been in this country?

Muslims have been part of America’s history since the very beginning. Several Muslims are said to have accompanied Columbus on his voyages. It is estimated that one-third of the slaves brought to the New World from Africa were Muslims. As former President Obama said, “Muslims have always been a part of America’s story.”

10. What did Thomas Jefferson think of Islam?

Jefferson bought a Qur’an to read and study, which surely signifies his interest in, and respect for, the faith. Jefferson also gave the first Iftar dinner at the White House, for Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from the bey of Tunis.

11. Who is required to make the Hajj, and how often?

All adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable are required to make the Hajj at least once in their lifetime.

12. What does the word “Islam” mean?

“Islam” means “submission” or “surrender” to the will of Allah. It is related to the word “salaam” which means “peace.”

13. When did Muhammad live?

From 570 to 632 A.D. And within a century of his death, the faith of Islam proved so attractive that it has spread from Arabia throughout the Middle East, and across North Africa, and into Spain, and even France. No other religion has spread so far so fast.

14. What is the world’s fastest-growing religion?

Islam. By far. It’s truly heartening to find so many people converting to our faith all over the world.

15. How many Muslims are there now in the United States?

About 3.5 million. As people look beyond the media scare stories and decide to find out about the real Islam for themselves, there are more converts every day.

16. How do Muslims traditionally greet one another?

By saying “salaam aleikum” — “Peace be with you.” The reply to which is: “Wa aleikum salaam” — “And peace be with you.” Peace is  very important  in Islam.

17. Who should pay the “zakat”?

The “zakat” is the obligatory charitable giving required of all Muslims.

18. What do “haram” and “halal” mean?

“Haram” refers to what is “forbidden” to Muslims, such as the eating of pork, alcohol, gambling.

“Halal” refers to what is permissible or lawful in traditional Islamic law. It is frequently applied to permissible food and drinks.

19. What do Muslims believe about freedom of religion?

Muslims learn from the Qur’an that “there is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256).

20. Why is Jerusalem — which Muslims call Al-Quds (“the noble place”) — the third holiest city in Islam?

It was from Jerusalem that Muhammad ascended to the heavens on his winged steed Al-Buraq. In one evening, the angel Gabriel took the Prophet, from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the Furthest Mosque (Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa) in Jerusalem. He was then taken up to the heavens, from the spot where the Dome of the Rock was built, to be shown the signs of God. After the Prophet met with previous prophets and led them in prayer, he was then taken back to Mecca. So Jerusalem is very significant in Islam. It’s a city holy to three faiths, but right now the Jews have full control. We think it should be shared.

21. Where is killing condemned in the Qur’an?

Killing is condemned quite clearly in Qur’an 5:32, which says that “If any one slew a person… it would be as if he slew a whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of a whole people…” That is unequivocal condemnation..

22. What is the Ka’aba?

The Ka’aba is the sacred structure, covered with a black cloth (kiswah), that sits in the middle of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and inside of which rests the Black Stone. Pilgrims performing the Hajj walk around the Ka’aba counterclockwise seven times. Muslims everywhere in the world turn toward the Ka’aba, while reciting their five daily prayers. It is the holiest site in Islam.

You can see just how much of significance has been carefully avoided in this test. None of the questions are going to be about the 109 verses in the Qur’an commanding Muslims to engage in violent Jihad, or about the verses telling Muslims to “strike terror” in the hearts of the Infidels. Nothing asked about the many antisemitic verses in the Qur’an, or about the verse condemning homosexuality. There will be nothing about Muhammad’s taking part in the killing of the 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, or his ordering the torture and killing of Kinana of Khaybar, or his pleased reaction to learning that Asma bint Marwan, Abu ‘Afak, and Ka’f Bin Al-Ashraf had been killed by his followers. Nothing, of course, about his consummation of his marriage to Aisha when she was nine years old and he was fifty-four. Nothing about Muhammad’s insistence, in the Hadith of Al-Bukhari, that “war is deceit” and his claim that “I have been made victorious through terror.” Nothing about the misogyny in Islam, including the fact that a daughter normally inherits only half that of a son, and that a woman’s testimony being worth only half that of a man. Muhammad claimed in a hadith that such a rule is explained “by the deficiency of her [woman’s] intelligence.” Nothing about the Muslim husband being allowed to wed up to four wives, and to divorce any of them merely by uttering the triple-talaq. Nothing about a husband’s right to “beat” a disobedient wife (4:34).

Islam 101 will undoubtedly leave out much about Islam that is of real significance, and present much of what it does include in a highly misleading fashion. See, e.g., the questions, and the answers to them, about when Muslims came to the New World, about Thomas Jefferson and Islam, about freedom of religion in Islam, about the attitude in the Qur’an toward killing.

Don’t despair. This particular Islam 101 consisted only of two one-hour lectures by two Muslims. It could have been worse. It could have been a weekend-long course. Or worst of all, it could have been a required course, part of some new college-wide Diversity Training. It may come to that, in universities all over this great land. But it hasn’t yet. Just keep thinking about the food. Whatever else goes on at these events, there is always the free food. Masala Grill. What could be better?

First published in Jihad Watch here, here and here

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