Archive for the ‘News Coverage’ category

Conference Makes News Once More

August 1, 2009

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
Web: IslamInAmerica.wordpress.com

“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).”

E-mail the author of this story: localnews@grpress.com

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Radio Interview about the Conference

August 1, 2009

Last week, two of the conference organizers appeared on local radio, 1480 AM WGVU, to promote the Islam in America conference.  Below are some clips from the hour long interview.

Download the MP3 Here:

News Coverage on the Conference

July 17, 2009

Muslims ask: ‘Do they really know who we are?’
Saturday, August 23, 2008 By Charles Honey
Grand Rapids Press
Press Religion Editor

GRAND RAPIDS — From their cramped office behind a Southeast Side barber shop, four young men try to get the word out: This is who we are, this is what we believe.

As Muslims in an overwhelmingly Christian community, they see it as their responsibility to tell what Islam truly teaches — to non-Muslims and other Muslims. They aim to do so through Sunnah Publishing, an educational nonprofit they formed four years ago.

“Living in America, we’re the ones who suffer” from misconceptions about Islam, said Maaz Qureshi, 27, a Pakistani Grand Rapids resident since 1997. “It is our religious obligation to clarify what our religion stands for and what it doesn’t.”

Hamza Kantarevic, like Qureshi, sometimes wears the flowing robe, long beard and skullcap of traditionalist Islam. He knows he looks exotic, and perhaps threatening, in conservative West Michigan.

“They might see us and know we are Muslims and live amongst them,” said Kantarevic, 24, a Bosnian who has lived here since 1999. “But do they really know who we are?”

He and his colleagues at Sunnah Publishing hope to answer that and other questions at their first public conference, “Islam in America,” beginning Friday, a few days before Ramadan begins.

The seminar features Muslim scholars from Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and New Jersey addressing a wide array of topics, from what Islam teaches about violence and women to Muslim positions on intelligent design and the environment.

Sunnah Publishing aims to provide answers by “turning back to Islam in its original form,” Qureshi said.

Some local Muslim leaders say they know little about Sunnah Publishing and will attend to learn more.

Ali Metwalli, a leader at the Islamic Mosque and Religious Institute, said the organizers have a “peaceful mindset” but are more conservative than most local Muslims.

Qureshi accepts the conservative label, but says traditional Islam unequivocally condemns the militant extremism that has “messed up the image of Islam.”

“The idea of committing suicide and (making) a plane crash into a building or strapping a bomb on your chest has nothing to do with Islam,” said Qureshi, a database specialist at Pitney Bowes Legal Solutions.

Though not formally educated in Islam, he and his colleagues say they have studied and consulted with top scholars.

Salaahudeen Ali, a lifelong Grand Rapids resident, and Muhammad Muridi also are publishing partners.

They formed the publishing firm with their own funds, selling books and CDs and building a Web site including articles and audio recordings. They also teach classes on Arabic and creeds from their office at 613 Fuller Ave. SE.

Though they say top Islamic scholars have consistently condemned terrorism, the publishers add local Muslims have not been vocal enough about their beliefs.

“Nobody else is going to do it,” Qureshi said. “You kind of have to put yourself out there.”

Send e-mail to the author: choney@grpress.com