Canceled Islam in America Conference rescheduled to discuss hot-button topics
by Matt VandeBunte | The Grand Rapids Press
Saturday August 01, 2009, 6:12 AM
CASCADE TOWNSHIP — A free primer on Islam that was canceled a year ago now has been re-assembled as a resource for the community to tap.
Partners in a local Islamic publishing house next weekend will host a conference aimed at de-linking the faith from terrorists such as Osama bin Laden and sharing Muslim perspectives on topics including environmentalism and evolution.
The event is geared toward non-Muslims.
“I don’t think many people in West Michigan even come into contact with a real, live Muslim,” said Maaz Qureshi, a native Pakistani who works as a database specialist at Pitney Bowes.
IF YOU GO
Islam in America Conference
What: A three-day primer on Islam, geared for non-Muslims
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Holiday Inn & Suites, 5401 28th St. SE
Who: Speakers, including two converts from Christianity, all are Americans who have studied at the Islamic University of Medina and serve as imams.
Cost: Free. Call 516-5621
“Possibly the only thing they’ve seen on TV could be the bloodthirsty terrorist type. It’s our responsibility as Muslims to represent ourselves.
“No questions are off-limits. We’re welcoming everyone.”
Qureshi, 28, of Plainfield Township, and three other local Sunni Muslims in 2006 started the nonprofit Sunnah Publishing company, which translates Islamic texts on a variety of issues, including divorce and prayer. They planned a conference last year, but three of four scheduled speakers had to cancel their visits.
Plans for the weekend gathering are similar: Discuss Islam’s view of particular hot-button issues, address misconceptions of Islamic teachings on, for example, women’s rights and dispel the myth that Islam supports violence.
“One of the things that seems to take people by surprise is when they see a Muslim openly condemning terrorism,” Qureshi said. “The point at the end of the day is this stuff cannot be connected to Islam. It’s basically a political motivation that drives (terrorists), even through they try to portray it as Islam.
“For someone to justify they can blow up a bus or hijack a plane and indiscriminately kill hundreds of people, this is something nobody will find justification (for in the sacred texts).”
Islam also has something to say about many other current topics, Qureshi said. Here is a sampling to be discussed at the conference:
• The global economic crisis: “Interest is considered a form of oppression in Islam,” Qureshi said. “To take a loan from somebody and expect something more in return is prohibited. We’re not allowed to either give it or take it.”
• Evolution: “We don’t believe in the theory of evolution as it is stated, but we do believe that there is evolution within a species,” said Qureshi, noting Islamic tradition records Adam’s height at 50 cubits, or 75 feet. “Obviously, there has been some evolution from that time until now.”
• The environment: “There is an incentive to be environmentally friendly or animal-friendly in Islam,” said Qureshi, noting the story of a prostitute who cared for a thirsty dog and was forgiven her sins.
• Women’s rights: “People have this misconception that Muslim women are not allowed to have an education,” Qureshi said. “She has the right to education. She has the right to own her own business. She has the right to approve or disapprove (a prospective spouse).”
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