Public forum on “Many faces of Islam” held in Ohio

Columbus, Ohio – November 06, 2007 – The Interfaith Association of Central Ohio held a public forum on the “Many faces of Islam” at the Ohio State House in the United States of America. A large number of people from different religions attended. Four panelists shared their experiences and challenges of being a Muslim in America especially after September 11. The panelists included Dr. Robert Crane, a former adviser to Nixon, Dr. Anisa Abd El Fattah, founder and chairperson of the National Association of Muslim American Women, Dr. Zulfiqar Shah, an executive member of the Fiqh Council of North America, and Imam Mostafa Al-Qazwini, director of the Islamic education center of Orange County, California.
All panelists felt that America was a great place to practice Islam despite the challenges they faced after September 11. “I lived in six different countries after leaving Iraq where 15 of my family members were killed by Saddam,” Imam Mostafa Al-Qazwini said, “but America is the best place to practice Islam. After Sept. 11, I felt like I should go back to Iraq. We, Muslims suffered twice. The (sight) of the buildings collapsing was like our homes collapsing. And later on we were accused. Our children were asked why your parents attacked America. It was a test for us. I decided to stay and fight against the stereotyping of Muslims and the narrow mindedness of the people.”
Dr. Shah said that he felt more secure in America than anywhere else. “Unfortunately when I go to Pakistan for a visit, my father says, let’s hurry up and get home and don’t go to too many public places because it is unsafe. But now, when the plane lands in the US, I want to hurry up and leave the airport. I feel like a visiting head of state. I have 17 police officers welcoming me; they go through my entire luggage at customs. I made America my home because here everyone is treated with true dignity, unlike in most Muslim countries.” Dr. Crane felt that things were gradually changing for the better for the Muslims after Sept. 11. “I am concerned about the radical Muslims who have harmed the image of Islam. We should explain Islam as the scholars have.”

Dr. Anisa Abd El Fattah said that America was a great country, one of the few where there were no religious wars or persecution. “But now I am ashamed of the US. We never had such xenophobia. Our church had never been as powerful as it is today, yet today we have become the most hateful and malicious people in the world. We are people just like you, I ask you to understand us, give us space and not be so judgmental.” Participants showed a lot of enthusiasm by asking questions ranging from why Muslims prayed five times a day to which translation of the Quran was the best. Dr. Crane (who became Muslim in 1981 and was made ambassador to the UAE under President Reagan but fired by the then Secretary of State Alexander Haig) told Arab News, “I feel it was because I became a Muslim but I was never told that officially.”

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Dr. Crane said the Arabic word “daraba” used in the Quran has 17 different meanings ranging from striking to separating. He felt that Islam did not condone wife beating. Dr. Anisa Fattah felt that a lot of men thought daraba meant beating because it was something they were doing anyway and did not want to change. Dr. Zulfiqar Shah said that the Quran never criticized the Jews or the Christians as is the common misconception. “Quran has always criticized the evil doers among the Jews, the Christians and for that matter among the Muslims.

07 Nov 2007