Friday, September 14, 2001

Muslim criticizes backlash

Educator says terrorists not true believers

        Like many Americans, Dr. Salem Foad watched with horror Tuesday as terrorists crashed two hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon. The troubling images wracked him with pain and worry — partly because his 30-year-old daughter worked at a hospital just a few blocks fromthe burning Pentagon.

[photo] Dr. Salem Foad, an arthritis specialist, is a board member of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati and president of the International Academy of Cincinnati.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        His daughter would turn out to be OK, but Dr. Foad would hear more disturbing news hours later when friends and fellow Muslims told him of threatening phone calls being received at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester Township.

        The Indian Hill doctor-teacher and president of the International Academy of Cincinnati spoke with Enquirer reporter Kevin Aldridge recently about reactions in the Muslim and Arab-American communities to backlash. He also attempted to shed some light on the religion of Islam and its followers.

        Dr. Foad, 60, has practiced as an arthritis specialist for 26 years. A native of Egypt, he came to Cincinnati in 1972. He has authored four books and has taught and lectured on the Islamic faith at institutions such as the University of Cincinnati and Hebrew Union College. He is a board member of the National Council for Community and Justice as well as the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Dr. Foad and his wife Waffaa have two grown sons and a daughter.

        Question: What is a Muslim?

        Answer: Muslims follow the religion of Islam. Islam means willful submission to God. A Muslim's beliefs are the same or very similar to a Christian or a Jewish person's beliefs. This is not a surprise because all of these religious beliefs come from the same source. We believe in one God. We believe in being accountable to Him. We believe in all the prophets Muhammad, Moses, Jesus. We believe that Jesus is God's prophet, but not the son of God. We believe in avoiding all the major sins, adultery, gambling, talking behind people's backs among other things. We also believe that all human life is sacred.

   Many people mistakenly think all Muslims are Arabs and vice versa. There are about 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, of which Arabs make up about 300 million.
   There are between 6 million and 7 million Muslims in the United States; about 10,000 Muslims live in Greater Cincinnati.
   Ethnicity of Muslims in United States
   33% - South Central Asian
   30% - African-American
   25% - Arab
   3% - African
   5% - Other
   2% - Southeast Asian
   2% - European
   Ethnicity of converts to Islam
   64% - African-American
   27% - Caucasian
   6% - Hispanic
   3% - Other
   Sources: The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.
        Q: The holy book for Muslims is the Koran. What is the difference between the Koran and the Bible?

        A: The Koran is God's revelation through the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad. It is the literal word of God. For many mainstream Christians, the Bible documents what the disciples felt Jesus wanted to say and only parts of the Bible are indeed the divine word of God.

        Q: Many Americans become confused when they hear terrorists such as Osama bin Laden being referred to in the media as Muslims. And those Muslims referring to their terrorist acts as holy missions. Do you consider these people Muslims?

        A: Islam is a perfect religion, but its followers may be good people or they may be bad people. There is no connection between these terrorists and religion. They are not Muslims because Muslims condemn such acts. The Koran says if a man kills one human soul it is the same as if he killed the souls of all humanity. It is also a major sin to commit suicide in our religion. These are criminals and evil people who have absolutely no religion. To say they are fighting for religious convictions is absurd. To advance one's personal or political agenda has nothing to do with jihad (striving in the cause of God) ... Would God be pleased by thousands of people being killed? By bringing fear and terror upon a nation? Of course not.

        Q: As a Muslim parent what do you tell your children about Tuesday's attacks, the portrayal of Muslim terrorists in the media and the potential for backlash?

        A: It depends on the age of the child. I think first and foremost it is important to show them love and give them reassurance. But if the child is old enough to understand it is important to tell them the truth about what has happened ... Tell them that they are Muslim and that our religion tells you not to kill. Tell them they are Americans, they live here and they belong here. And warn them that people may stereotype them and point fingers at them and stare because of what has happened. Tell them they should tell those people that Muslims are a peace-loving people and that Muslims don't do this sort of thing.

        Q: What message would you send to Americans across the country and in Greater Cincinnati about potential backlash against American Muslims?

        A: Do not stereotype all Muslims, because it is not fair. We understand that people will grieve and get angry and want revenge. This is a normal human reaction ... But in a moment of anger you may do something you will regret later. We all want to see these terrorists eradicated, but we don't want to hurt innocent people ... The question is how to punish the aggressors without punishing innocents. The majority of Muslims are honest, decent, God-fearing people who work hard. When you stereotype you are showing prejudice and showing the worst side of people.


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