Oct 2016 Meeting Minutes Discussion of American Muslim Faith and Beliefs

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1 Oct 2016 Meeting Minutes Discussion of American Muslim Faith and Beliefs What is Muslim Faith? Muslim History In The United States Director Chaaban opened his discussion with a brief history of Muslim people in America. Historians agree that Muslim people living in the United States date back to the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. At that time in history, Spain was inhabited by a mix of Christian, Jewish and Muslim peoples. As King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella came to power the Great Spanish Inquisition started to make life miserable for the Jewish and Muslim minorities living in that country. It is believed that there were many Muslims who signed up to be crew members of Christopher Columbus in his search for what he thought would be India but in fact turned out to be the new world. With the introduction of slavery into the United States, it is believed that as many as 1 out of three of the slaves captured in Africa and transported to the United States were originally of the Muslim faith. Most were eventually converted to Christianity but when they first arrived they lived life in a very similar manner to people of Muslim faith. This explains why so many black people in America today in search of their roots find themselves embracing the Muslim faith. Today Muslims make up 25% of the worldwide global population. Approximately 20% of the worldwide Muslim population today lives in the Middle East. The majority of the Muslim Worldwide population today lives in Asia. Indonesia has almost 100% of its population practicing the Muslim faith. There is a large Muslim population today also living in India. It is estimated that today there are approximately 3 million Muslim believers living in the United States. The largest Muslim populations today are found in population centers surrounding New York, Chicago, Washington DC and in California. Within Florida it is estimated there are about 500,000 Muslims with approximately 50,000 living in the Central Florida area. Today there are about 10 Florida Mosques affiliated with the Central Florida Islamic Center for Peace and another 10 Mosques of different affiliations in the Orlando area including one located here in Poinciana. How to live a Muslim Life How does one live a Muslim life? The first and most important part of the Muslim Faith is to accept that there is only one God. God exists and God is all powerful. Once a Muslim accepts the existence of God then it is required that Muslims follow God s laws. First there can be no doubt that there is only one God and his laws must be obeyed. The way this works is not dissimilar to a student taking a course in school. In school the teacher is the leader of the classroom. The teacher sets the rules, teaches the materials and passes out the grades. The teacher has no control over how the student studies or puts forth effort while taking the class. That is up to the student. The teacher however is the one who makes the ultimate decision whether the student passes or fails. In the Muslim religion that is the way the relationship between believers and God works.

2 God lays down the rules. God tells the people what is expected of them. People however are free to lead their lives as they so choose. At the end of life however it is God the teacher who passes out the grades. For those who have lived their lives according to the teachings of God their reward is to enter into heaven. For those who chose not to follow God s teachings their destination is a much less desirable place commonly known as Hell. Muslim Articles and Pillars of Faith Director Chaaban described the Six Articles of Faith that are keys to the Islamic Religion and the Five Pillars of Faith. The Six Articles of Faith are as follows; 1. Muslims believe in one God. 2. Muslims believe in Angels. Angels are invisible but sit on the shoulders of all believers in Islam. One Angel sits on one shoulder and records all the good deeds. The second Angel sits on the other shoulder and records all the bad deeds. At the Day of Judgment the Angels report their findings to God. 3. Muslims believe in the Prophets. There are 25 identified prophets ranging from Adam to Moses to King David to Jesus with the final prophet being Muhammed. 4. Muslims believe in the Holy Books passing down the teachings of God including the Torah, the Old Testament Bible, the New Testament Bible and the Koran. 5. Muslims believe in the Day of Judgement at the end of life when God decides whether one spends the afterlife in either Heaven or Hell. 6. Lastly Muslims believe that God s will must be followed. God tests mankind by presenting both good and bad challenges to see how man reacts and to decide how the afterlife will be spent. The Five Pillars of Faith are as follows; 1. The Testimony of Faith that there is only one God and that Muhammed is the most recent of the prophets. 2. In order to be a good practicing Muslim it is imperative that one pray 5 times each day. 3. Good Muslims must fast 1 month of the year when nothing may be eaten between sunrise and sunset. The reason for the annual fast is to remind Muslims of the plight of the poor who are not so lucky as to be able to eat at sunset but instead suffer hunger all day long every day. 4. Muslims believe in the day of judgement at the end of life on earth when God decides whether one proceeds on to heaven or hell. 5. Muslims are required at least once in a lifetime to make a spiritual journey to Mecca where they believe God Created life on earth. The Role of Women? Director Chaaban stated that the 3 rd book of the Koran was dedicated to describing the role of women in Islamic Faith. Islam believes that all life began with God s creation of Adam and Eve and that the role of

3 woman is to be attractive to man in order to propagate the species of mankind. In order to bring this about the institution of marriage is critical to the faith. In a marriage, man is viewed as the head of the family and the breadwinner for the family. There is no prohibition against women also having jobs. He says the scripture is clear however that it is the role of man to work to bring income to support the family. Income earned by the woman is meant to be used by her alone at her own discretion. The role of woman in Islam is not to be the breadwinner for the family. Within a family man must work to be the breadwinner. As far as dress it was described that both men and women were meant to be physically attractive to each other. He said that attractiveness was meant to be kept within the marriage. Recognizing that sexual attractiveness naturally exists between individuals outside of marriage the scripture encourages modest cover-up among individuals outside of marriage. Director Chaaban stated that degrees of modesty varied depending on culture citing the extremes of nudism in a nature colony as compared to full length cover-up from head to toe. He used the example of the perfect level of modesty being the dress as depicted by the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Again, much like there are different views of Christian dress among religious sects he said that the same was true among various sects of the Muslim Faith. Sunni vs Shia? There was a lengthy discussion of the Sunni vs the Shia sects of the Muslim Faith. He described how a split in the faiths took place shortly after the death of the Prophet Muhammed with one part of the Muslim Community breaking away to declare themselves Sunni with the other portion of Muslims declaring themselves to be Shia. Listening to his discussion, the scenario sounded not unlike what happened between the Christian Protestant vs Catholics. Not unlike what happened within the Christian Faith these splits were all too often enhanced by political and nationalistic disagreements such as took place between the French Catholics and English/ German Protestant faiths. He described how these splits today have taken on political and nationalistic battles between the Persian Countries (Iran, parts of Iraq, parts of Syria) vs the non-persians of Saudi Arabia, parts of Iraq etc. He said that while the religious differences between the two sects might be small, the political and nationalistic differences between the two could be lethal and deadly. Muslim Religion and Science There was discussion describing the role of the Muslim religion and science, specifically evolution and Darwinism. Director Bassam described how in his opinion the Muslim religion over the years had played a significant role in working with the leading scientists to create such things as the Arabic languages and numbering system. He described how in his opinion the teachings of the Koran were completely consistent with the views of the evolution of the universe. He described how unfortunately for either political or corrupt reasons sometimes that teachings of the Koran had been misinterpreted by various groups to serve their own political or economic interests.

4 LGBT, Alcohol and Consumption of Pork The discussion included the Islamic vision of the homosexual relationships among man/woman and other religious taboos such as the usage of Alcohol or the consumption of pork within the diet. He said that while all such relationships and consumption were prohibited by the Koran, individual decisions regarding relationships or consumption were individual decisions with accountability held between the individuals and God. He said that the Islamic Church did not prohibit entry by either group of sinners nor should any punishment be inflicted to the individuals by man. God would deal with transgressions. Within the church, activities promoting either sinful relationships or consumption would be prohibited and would be dealt with inside the church. ISIS and Politics The question was asked about the relationship between the Islamic Religion and ISIS. Director Chaaban first responded by describing the current state of the Middle East as being the equivalent of the dark ages in Europe. He said that for more than a thousand years there had been strong political differences between the Shiite and the Sunni tribes and countries in the Middle East. He stated that while the Dictator Sadam Hussein was as brutal as he was, he had provided a stable Sunni Regime in Iraq that had offered a counterbalance of force against the strong Shiite State of Iran. With the western US led invasion of Iraq and the removal of Hussein that left a vacuum of power in Iraq. The result being that an oppressive Shiite government was installed in Baghdad that began to take revenge against the Sunni minority who under Hussein had long ruled the country and oppressed the Iraqi Shiites. Because at the same time the jails of Iraq were emptied of many criminals, this vacuum of power created the opportunity for ISIS, made up of a group of Al Qaeda outcasts, to seize control and allegiance of the Sunni population by declaring themselves to be a new Islamic State calling themselves ISIS. In reality their religion had nothing to do with their aspirations for power they were nothing more than a group of outlaws and thugs. They used that as a pretense to gain the allegiance of the Sunni Iraqis to fight against the Sunnis. Director Chaaban stated that in reality ISIS had been responsible for even more brutality and deaths among people of Islamic faith than of Christians but that had not been reported so widely in the press. He described the Middle East situation with ISIS as being a perfect example of what happens when politics and religion become too intermingled. He used the current offensive to retake the city of Mosul as an example. He said that the conflict was being described as a religious conflict between the Sunni s, Shiites and Kurds when in reality is was a political conflict between the interests and tribes loyal to Iran, the Iraqi Sunni Tribes and the Kurds vs ISIS controlled territories. Lastly he described how the current ISIS conflict in the Middle East was an example of what President Dwight D Eisenhower had warned against when described the dangers from the growth in power of the worldwide military industrial complex. He described how tribal conflicts in lands such as the Middle East were inflamed by the availability of so many powerful weapons made available to the combatants by the arms suppliers and manufacturers from primarily the United States and Russia. He described how although the combatants were mere tribesman from middle eastern clans they seemed to have at their disposal powerful

5 weapons that were either originally manufactured in the United States or Russia. Weapons being used under the cover of religion to promote political purposes. Conclusion In summary the speaker concluded the meeting by stating many if not most of the problems in the world today were not conflicts between religions but nations, tribes and among different peoples in the world where political problems were being mistakenly identified as religious conflicts. Specifically that the differences between the major religions in the world today such as Christians, Jews and Muslims are not that great when focused on the religious issues by themselves. Where the problems arise is when human nature most strongly represented by the beliefs held by many people that my way is the right way and that people must be either with us or against us are pulled in one direction or when others looking out for their own self-interests use religion as an excuse to promote their own agendas. Historical examples include such as the persecution of the early Christians, the inquisitions against the Muslims in the middle ages, the crusades, the Catholics vs the Protestants and on and on. The tensions that exist today between Christians and Muslims were described as not so much religious conflicts but more political battles between power brokers in various parts of the world, especially today in the Middle East. The solution from a religious point of view is to promote discussion between the people of the religious faiths themselves leaving the interests of the politicians, power brokers and the press outside in order to establish better understanding between the two groups. More information about the Central Florida Islamic Center For Peace may be found at the website

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