Imam Mahmoud Hassanein spoke about his experiences as a Muslim in America during the “Islam without the Phobia” event on Oct. 26 in the Student Center.
The UCA Social Justice League (SJL) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) sponsored the event. Hassanein is from Egypt and earned his Ph.D. at the University of England.
Hassanein said Muslims have long held strong, coherent relations with non-Muslims, and all people are given respect regardless of their race or religion.
“I love every human being because this is what my religion says,” Hassanein said. “What the Quran says.”
Like the Bible, the Quran tells Muslims to love their neighbor, Hassanein said.
Hassanein shared stories about how he and a friend had faced negativity because people saw or heard that they were Muslim and became afraid.
“In order to judge someone, you have to hear it from them,” Hassanein said.
Hassanein said the growth of Islamophobia can be attributed in part to media outlets that Photoshop photos depicting Muslims or take parts of the Quran out of context.
Hassanein said “Islam” is often used immediately after anything happens involved a Muslim. He said the names of the specific people who commit crimes should be the focus, not their religion.
Hassanein said some people who are afraid of Islam misinterpret parts of the Quran because they don’t speak Arabic and don’t have any cultural context. Hassanein said translation issues can also cause problems because sometimes people interpret words in their own way when they are translating a text. This can also be a problem with other religious texts, such as the Bible.
Extremists who use their religion to hurt others are brainwashed, Hassanein said, because the Quran says not to force others to accept your religion as their own.
Hassanein said that if animal cruelty is punished under Islam, hurting other humans when God calls for peace is against Islam. Hassanein said no one has the right to force others to follow their religion, and the world needs to cooperate to stop those who do. Blaming Islam for extremists is like blaming the car when a person wrecks, Hassanein said.
According to UCA Muslim Student Association President Saliou N. Outtara, the goal of the program was to educate people on issues involving Islam and give them a clearer understanding of the religion.
The SJL invited the MSA to help with the program to help students learn about Islam.
Hassenein said it is not his job to force others to follow Islam, but rather to remind people how they should behave.