Sunday morning learning: My neighbor is Muslim

News | September 26, 2016

On the five Sundays in October, St. Paul will examine the Islamic faith in a series that will be held in the Chapel, 10:45-11:30 a.m., beginning Oct. 2. The series will feature Saad Baig, imam of the Islamic Center of the Quad Cities; Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation; and Peter Marty, senior pastor.

“The fact is that we all have a call to love our neighbor,” Ryan said. “We live in a global society now. Decades ago, we may have never met anyone who is Muslim. Now we do. They are our neighbors. You can’t love your neighbor without knowing them.”

The series is based, in part, from materials created by Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota.

“The American popular press has been filled with news of the ‘war on terror’ with negative characterizations of Muslim people. Though devout Muslims have tried to counter the media with reminders that Islam is a religion of devotion to God and peace among neighbors, those voices are sometimes hard to hear,” said Jodi Harpstead, the CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota. “Our intention is simply that this resource will open doors, minds, and hearts and dispel stereotypes and myths about Muslim neighbors just enough to start more conversations.”

The series is written by several scholars, led by Tom Green, associate professor of religion at Luther College. Green’s research focuses on Islamophobia, secularization, and interfaith dialogue. His most recent book, The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West, surveys anti-Muslim bigotry and hostility in the United States and Europe. He examines the political and imperial forces driving Islamophobia for much of Western history and analyzes the rise in anti-Muslim prejudice in the post-9/11 era.

For the 2016-2017 academic year, Green is on sabbatical leave. He will spend the year serving as a Franklin Fellow at the State Department in Washington, DC. His role will be to analyze and assess Islamophobia in Europe, including the impact of anti-Muslim prejudice on countering violent extremism initiatives, refugee and migrant policies, and human rights.

Green, in an interview about his most recent book, says he hopes to help improve the conversation in the west about Islam and its 1.6 billion practitioners.

“I think we’re doing a lousy job in the west when it comes to having a calm, rational, measured conversation about Islam,” he said. “We need to do better, and we’ve got to do better. I hope this book helps western audiences understand where much of their anxiety about Islam comes from – the historical, political, cultural, and religious forces that have given shape to the way that many in the west imagine the Muslim ‘other.’”

Oct. 2 | Our pluralistic world: Christian people who adhere to deep practices of personal faith can appreciate and love people of other faiths. Ignorance of other religions is no excuse for hunkering down in righteous isolation. Explore new ways for thinking about Islam and other faiths with which Christians co-exist. Peter Marty, senior pastor.

Oct. 9 | Five pillars of Islam: While Islam is a religion with diversity, certain core beliefs and practices unite all Muslims. These fundamentals are referred to as the Five Pillars of Islam. Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation.

Oct. 16 | Islam & Judaism/Christianity: A sometimes-narrow framing of Islam in the news leads many in the West to conclude that Muslims are simply intolerant of their Abrahamic siblings. However, a brief survey of Islamic sources and history reveals a much more nuanced perspective on Islam’s relationship with Judaism and Christianity. Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation.

Oct. 23 | Islamic State: In June 2014, the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, declared a new state. The overwhelming majority of Muslims reject ISIS’ claim, but misunderstandings about what sort of government Islam encourages still prevail in the West. Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation.

Oct. 30 | Imam Saad Baig: Raised in Chicago, Imam Saad completed the rigorous seven-year `Alim (divinity) course at Darul Uloom Zakariyaa in Johannesburg, South Africa. Imam Saad serves as director of religious affairs and imam of the Islamic Center of the Quad Cities.

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