Ohio Churches Defend Islam Against Bigotry

BUTLER COUNTY — Two churches in Middletown, Ohio, have joined forces with the neighboring Islamic center to learn more about Islam and counter negative perceptions traded by Republican presidential candidates.

“He taught us about the five pillars of Islam,” Pastor Michelle Terry, of Bethlehem Lutheran, said, referring to Dr. B. Salem Foad of the Islamic Center, Journal News reported on Sunday.

“He gave a brief overview of the history of the Islamic faith, including the differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

“He clarified what is inherent to the faith (basically all Muslims believe and practice), and what is unique to different groups within the Muslim community,” she said.

“He also explained how political divisions combined with inner-religious disagreements (Sunni and Shiite) to cause much of the turmoil in the Middle East. He was gracious and engaging, and everyone learned something.”

Pastor Terry was referring to the invitation extended by her church to Dr Foad to educate them about Islam.

The event is part of efforts led by why Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Zion Lutheran Church in Middletown with the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati to correct misconceptions.

The event was urged after presidential candidate and billionaire businessman Donald Trump recently stated in an interview with CNN that he thinks “Islam hates us,” adding that it’s “very hard to separate” radical Islam from the mainstream practice of the religion.

“It’s very hard to define,” Trump said in the interview that has now gone viral. “Because you don’t know who’s who.”

During the visit, Foad talked about radical and extreme views held by some “Muslims,” as contradicting with the true Islam.

“If you do not share their views then you have no real faith and you are not a Muslim,” Foad said of the extremists.

“You are either with them or against them. This stems from superficial and wrong understanding of the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and not understanding the sayings of the Prophet in historical context or in the context of the Qur’an. I also explained that killing those terrorists is not the solution, because others of similar mindset will take their place.”

Building Bridges

Giving a presentation about the true Islam to the population of the two churches was a step in the right direction toward building bridges.

“I am saddened when those who claim to represent Islam are highjacking my faith and behaving in a way that is un-Islamic and against the teachings of this noble religion,” he said.

“To destroy is easy, to build is difficult and slow.”

Foad said the battle against bigotry only gets tougher when people like Donald Trump are able to fan the flames.

“Unfortunately, Trump and his likes are exploiting this fear, anger and frustration and appealing to our worst human nature,” Foad said.

“This rhetoric only inflames emotions and makes things worse, and is not based on truth or logic. Of course it increases bigotry and prejudice.”

Elizabeth B. Frierson, an associate professor of History in the Middle East and North Africa at the University of Cincinnati, echoed Foad’s sentiment.

“We’ve seen people become violent against their fellow Americans in response to Trump’s rhetoric, and we don’t need more of that,” Frierson said.

“We have had enough of that.”

She added that Muslim-Americans are law-abiding citizens.

“We are a country that needs to be united and cherish all of our talents to be able to survive in this rapidly changing world,” Frierson said.