csmonitorMatters of faith: Updates on the world of religion
By Jane Lampman

Muslims reach out

American Muslims are most aware of the paucity of understanding on both sides, and some are experimenting with their own remedy. Earlier this month, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a grass-roots group aimed at strengthening Muslims in their faith practice, had a full-day "Window on Islam" for non-Muslims at their annual convention in Hartford, Conn.

Imams and scholars held a lively seminar with more than 100 guests on such topics as what Muslims believe, jihad, how Muslims view other religions, the status of women, the role of the prophet Muhammad, and how Islam views evil.

In a discussion on jihad and terrorism, Dr. Jamal Badawi, a prominent author and scholar from Canada, said "holy war" is not in the Koran, but is an English phrase – and an oxymoron. Jihad refers to various means of striving and relates to combat only for "just causes, such as to repel aggression or resist severe oppression, and only if peaceful means to achieve peace fail." Such war is strictly regulated, including not hurting noncombatants and not destroying infrastructure or the environment. The Koran condemns excesses, even in worship, he added.

Imam Shabir Ally, an expert on biblical religions, discussed similarities and differences in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Two converts – a former evangelical pastor from Texas and a British woman journalist – shared their perspectives.

ICNA invites questions on Islam at their hot line: 877-Why-Islam.

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Islamic Circle of North America
166-26 89th Ave
Jamaica, Queens
NY 11432

Telephone/Fax: (855) 855-ICNA (4262)