Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Westerners Attend Seminars Dispelling Myths About Islam


Westerners Attend Seminars Dispelling Myths About Islam
Ismaeel Nakhuda, Arab News

MAKKAH, 3 September 2006 — A group of 82 Western Muslims participated in a set of seminars held in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with some of the Kingdom’s leading sheikhs and imams to learn about the peaceful message of Islam.
The students — male and female, who were mainly from the US and included people from Britain, Canada and the West Indies, were also given an opportunity to visit the holy cities, gain exclusive access to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, enter the Kaaba in Makkah and direct questions to Saudi scholars about the challenges faced by Muslim living in the West.
According to the organizers, Al-Quraan Wa As-Sunnah Society of New York, the Saudi scholars were able to dispel many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding Islam.
Sheikh Zahid Rashid, an American student at the Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah and one of the main organizers of the tour said, “The group includes people who are active in dawa in their areas, imams of mosques in the US and the heads of MSAs at universities in the US. The whole purpose of the program is to make people active in the US to give dawa (propagation of Islam) and dispel myths about Islam and terrorism.”
Participants spent one week in Madinah and two weeks in Makkah and were able to attend various seminars held by numerous sheikhs in both cities on subjects relating to creed, jurisprudence, hadith, the Qur’an and the methodology of dawa among non-Muslims in the West.
Convert to Islam Mohammed Abdul Aziz, from Atlanta, US, said, “I have definitely learned about Islam and this trip has enabled me to dispel some myths there about Islam. There are those who say they are good Muslims but the scholars here are telling people that this is wrong.
“As far as terrorism and stuff like that is concerned Saudi Arabia and the scholars here have categorically explained that they don’t support terrorism and that terrorism is against Islam.”
Arab News joined the group on their final day of seminars in which members of the group directed questions to Sheikh Wasiullah Abbas, an Indian scholar who lectures in the Grand Mosque. The sheikh answered questions regarding Muslim unity, how to interact with non-Muslims in dawa work and how Muslims should work with student Muslim bodies at universities and colleges across the West. Speaking to the group the sheikh said, “You shouldn’t call them in a harsh way, nor should you put people down but you should call them with wisdom and try helping them.”
Safwan Abu Kanaz, 35, came all the way from New York to participate in the seminars. Describing the trip to be very “historical” he said, “I’ve never seen the like of this trip and nor will I.”
Safwan added, “The way the media are projecting Islam is in total contradiction of what is being portrayed about Saudi Arabia. The extremists are people without knowledge. The sheikhs have condemned all acts of extremism and have explained and clarified that which is Islam and that which is against the ethos of the religion.”
Speaking about international terrorism he added, “They have explained in full detail that Islam is against terrorism. Those that are portrayed as leaders are not leaders and in fact don’t have any Islamic knowledge.”
Among the highlights of the trip was an opportunity to visit the factory that builds covers for the Kaaba and a chance to have supper at the home of the Imam of Makkah Sheikh Muhammad Subayyil.
Addressing the group Sheikh Subayyil advised against extremism and said, “People should behave with non-Muslims with softness, kindness and ease to attract them to Islam.”
Wisaf Sharieff, 25, a radiology student from New York, said, “We had a wonderful welcome in Madinah and one of the highlights of the Madinah stay was that within three days of reaching there we were given exclusive access to the haram and we had 35 minutes all to ourselves there. It was a special moment.”
Commenting on the outcome of the visit Sheikh Zahid said, “We want people to see the peaceful message of Islam and to go back and be able to teach their communities the real message. We want people to know that Islam and Muslims are different from what the media show.”
Organizers say this is the second time such a visit has been arranged and hope to organize similar visits in coming years.


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