Local Muslims Aim to Clear Up Misconceptions About Islam
By MICHAELA JACKSON
Amid a culture that casually tosses around phrases such as “Muslim terrorists” and “Islamic jihad,” more than 50 people gathered yesterday to sort out truth from misinterpretation and find the answer to the question, “What is Islam?”
In a sunlit room with high ceilings and few chairs, local Muslims and interested community members sat cross-legged on the floor and listened intently for more than an hour as leaders of the Islamic Center of Nashville explained their worldview and patiently answered questions about Islam’s place in the world.
“Our main goal for the city of Nashville is that we’re hoping that the term ‘Muslim terrorist’ can be eliminated, because they don’t go together. A terrorist is violent and ‘Muslim’ means peace. You’re either a terrorist or a Muslim. You can’t be both.”…
The concept of a jihad is often associated with military force, but Imam Abdulhakim Mohamed, the leader of the congregation, said a jihad is any activity done with all of one’s might. He said the term jihad is even used when a Muslim is thoroughly explaining Islam to a non-Muslim.
Mohamed also explained the difference between the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam. The difference is rooted in the centuries-old Shiite belief that the head of the Islamic state should be the closest available relative of Muhammad, which stands in opposition to the Sunni belief that the leader should be democratically elected…
Chris Cotten, a master of divinity student at Lipscomb University, said he particularly enjoyed Mohamed’s explanation of the Sunni-Shiite split. Cotten said he is not interested in converting to Islam, but he came to the open house to learn more about the religion.
“They have a real sense of community, it seems to me — a tight sense of identity that Christianity has sort of lost,” he said. “In the current climate, this is a vulnerable position (for Muslims) to be in, and as a Christian myself, I think it’s really important for us to be protective, almost (of the Muslim community).
“I think that fear gets in our way, even though, as I understand it as a Christian, that’s what God would have us to do — to look out for those who are weak and vulnerable.”•