Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Bridge to Islam

This was a very interesting Elderhostel. I don't know how much new we learned, and we were surprised at how much we already knew. The main impression we got is that Islam is pretty much like any other fundamentalist, revelation-based religion, Christian, Jewish, or any other. It has holy scripture, prophets, rites, predictions of judgement day, etc.

Culturally, one goes without shoes inside the mosque. Maybe we should have been aware of that, but I think Elderhostel should've told people ahead of time about that part of the dress requirements. All the preliminary information said was that if shorts were worn, they should go below the knee. I was not the only one with problems going without the support of shoes - and I have no clue as to what they do about people might come in for such a program wearing sandals without socks. Otherwise the presenters were very informative and candid with their answers to questions, about many subjects, beliefs, rites, culture, family life, etc..

One funny thing - there were no mirrors in the women's rest room. Finally, toward the end of the Q&A, somebody asked about it. It turns out there was no deep theological reason. The facility is brand new - they've only been in a couple of months. There was an irregularity in the wall in the ladies room, and the mirrors couldn't be installed. So they're waiting to get the walls fixed. That got lots of laughs!

A point was made by a speaker that something like 90% of Muslims were opposed to suicide bombers, etc. The question was asked - if that was the case, why weren't they speaking out about it - even shouting condemnation. The answer to that question wasn't too specific. The speaker said Muslims were speaking out, but we just don't hear it. The Koran specifically forbids the taking of innocent life and suicide - so it's against the Koran. But, the speaker was very critical of Muslims (like al Qaeda) who use their "Muslim-ness" to convince the uneducated to do their bidding, i.e., for violence and terrorism.

John added thoughts about spelling differences. We use the Roman alphabet, so when things are translated from the Arabic, it becomes different, i.e., Koran and Qu'ran. He also remembered that one speaker in particular felt that long-time Muslim citizens were unfairly targeted for scrutiny under the Patriot Act - "profiled" if you will - much more so than nonMuslims.

If you have any specific questions about the program, ask me, and we'll try to answer.

Al-Farooq Masjid of Atlanta has been in existence since 1980. It is governed and managed by a Board of Directors. This is a photo I took of the south-facing side of the building.


Anonymous said...

Mary, thanks for this report on your trip to Atlanta to learn more about Islam. Most of what you learned I knew because of the trip to Albania last year. Our guide told us prior to our visit to the Mosque about the shoes as well as the head covering.

It is important to me to learn about other religions and respect all faiths.

Sue Retzlaff

Mary Z said...

Hi Sue - we didn't have to wear head coverings - at least not in the areas where we were. And, I think a lot of that might be a local cultural thing. The speakers all stressed that there were different customs based on local culture - but that these did not reflect the absolute principles and teachings in the Koran.