Understanding Islam

Understanding Islam
By: Jeff Cunningham
One fifth of the world's population is Muslim. That's more than a billion people. Islam is the dominate religion in the Middle East, an area that has a daily affect on the United States.
But Islam is still a religion vastly misunderstood by most Americans. And hear in the Heartland there are Muslims who say they believe in Jesus, helping their fellow man and say terrorism is not Islamic.
The Adan is what Muslims know as the call to prayer. It's the beginning of this meeting at the Islamic Center in Cape Girardeau. Every Friday, these Muslims meet to pray together and listen to a short talk. The lesson on the day we visited was about the excess of every day life and how it can lead to obesity.
This is a glimpse into a religion that is the second most popular in the world behind Christianity. Muslims pray five times a day, they believe in one God, in Arabic Allah, and follow the five pillars of Islam. But what may surprise you is they also believe in the prophet Adam, the prophet Noah, Moses, Abraham and Jesus. They believe Jesus is a prophet just like Mohammad. Muslims consider Mohammad to be the last prophet and he is who they say brought them the Qur'an, the rule book of Islam.
When praying, Muslims face east toward Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It's their holiest city and every Muslim is required to take a pilgrimage to Mecca if they are physically and financially able. In Islam, women are considered equal to men and in some cases superior to them.
Tahsin Khalid, a Southeast Missouri State University professor and practicing Muslim, says Muslims like the Taliban who look at women as inferior have let local beliefs cloud their religion. Khalid came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1992. He's been teaching at Southeast Missouri State for six years. He's an example of the Muslim community we have in the Heartland. A far cry from some of the Muslims we see on TV. It bothers Tahsin that some people think all Muslims believe in terrorism, he says for anyone to kill innocent people, like a suicide bombing, is not Islam. It's against Islam.
Tashin takes his message with him all across the Heartland. He calls himself an educator but not just at SEMO, he hopes to help us understand that different religions should be less about what divides us and more about what we have in common.
Recently, the new chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Silvestro Reyes, was asked a series of questions about the Middle East. The Texas democrat was stumped by many of the questions even though he will oversee the CIA and other agencies.
His lack of knowledge is indicative of a problem in the U.S. The Middle East has a daily effect on our country, yet many of us still can't answer the basic questions.
Doctor Mamner is a political science professor at Southeast Missouri State. We asked him to help us understand the Middle East. Our first question, how did the problems in the Middle East begin? He says you can trace it back to the book of Genesis and Abraham. Haggar the slave girl has Ismael, his wife Sara has Isaac. Manmer says, "God promises to Abraham and his offspring the promised land. Muslims trace their lineage to Ismael. Jews to Isaac. So they in essence have been promised the same piece of land."
In 1948 Israel declared its independence and took over a piece of land in the Middle East, including the Gaza strip. So, our next question, why do so many countries in the Middle East seem to hate Israel? Mamner says, "There are claims to holy sites and remember the 3 big Abrahamic religions have holy sites in Israel., that's a big part of the fight."
The U.S. gets and endures a lot of hatred in the Middle East in part to our support of Israel, so why do we support Israel? "Israel has been on of our strongest allies, they share our values and the same things we hold dear," according to Mamner.
We also hear daily about Sunnis and Shias in Iraq fighting each other, so what is the difference between Sunni and Shiite? Doctor Hill says the conflict started with the death of the Mohammad. The 2 groups disagree on who should lead Islam. The Shia believe the leader should be a direct descendent of Mohammad. The Sunnis believe the leader can be elected by a group of elders.