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by Brittany Yap, associate editor

Despite his mosque being burned down in Australia 10 days after 9-11, and the fact that security at American airports consistently give him a hard time about his duties here in America, Abdullah continues to give talks all over the world in hopes of bridging the gap between the Middle East and the West.

The tall, traditionally dressed, and mildly humorous Abdullah said that Americans are bombarded with media everyday, and the media’s portrayal of the Middle East is often distorted. Words such as Koran, Al Qaeda, and Islam are thrown into the mix with the word terrorism, and Americans start drawing conclusions before really knowing enough.

The American media uses passages from the Koran to frighten people and portray Muslims as bad guys, said Abdullah. Along with that, terrorists use certain lines from the Koran to justify their fight with the West, and that makes it all the more confusing.

“ It’s important to view the actual context and its meaning before we arrive at conclusions,” said Abdullah about the Koran. “You shouldn’t take things out of context and use them as you please. That’s dangerous.”

Abdullah feels that there are many misunderstandings between the Middle East and the West because of lack of knowledge and the will to learn more about each other. It is so much easier to say “them” and “us” than to really figure out what the misunderstandings are and try to resolve the differences between the two cultures.

An HPU sophomore, Veronica Andersson, from Sweden said, “I’m here because I don’t know a lot about religions, but I do know what discrimination is, and how the media and the U.S. portray Muslims, and I disagree with that. I don’t think all Muslims are terrorists.” She added, “I like how [Abdullah] has a sense of humor about things, on an issue like this.”

According to Abdullah, jihad does not mean holy war. He said, “To translate jihad to holy war is inaccurate. Holy is never spoken with war.”

Many of us think that jihad means holy war because of what we see in the media and because terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda, misinterpret the Koran and say that jihad is a holy war against the infidels, or the West.

Abdullah said that jihad means to make an effort, to strive. Jihad is the struggle to do the right thing or the struggle within yourself.

Abdullah spoke in depth about jihad and reasons that some Muslims use violence and Osama Bin Laden’s rationale on the U.S. According to Abdullah, Muslims use violence because many live in poverty, and Islam is a rallying point for them. They are upset with U.S. sanctions and strikes against several Arab countries and with the occupation in Iraq. They resent the U.S. support for certain undemocratic Arab regimes. They don’t like so many military bases in Arab countries, and they are really upset with the U.S. economic, political, and military support for Israel. They feel the U.S. is trying to humiliate Arabs and defeat them.

“ The Israel-Arab conflict is a major issue and we need to understand that,” said Abdullah. He continued to point out that “Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has 450 nuclear warheads.”

As for Bin Laden’s rationale, Abdullah said that Bin Laden is upset with the U.S. because of its support for such unpopular leaders as the Saudi kings and Egypt’s President Hossein Mubarak. He continued saying that Bin Laden is upset with the bombing of Iraq and the sanctions on food and medicine, as a result of which, thousands of Iraqi children died. Bin Laden is not only concerned with fighting the U.S., but he also wants to get rid of regimes that he regards as apostate in the Muslim world, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Shiite Iran. According to Abdullah, Bin Laden is fighting American imperialism and wants the U.S. out of Iraq.

Even though most Muslims regret 9-11 happening, and only a small minority of Muslims support Bin Laden, many of them do see the fuel behind Bin Laden’s fire.

Throughout his lecture, Abdullah reminded the audience “that you have to look at it from another perspective,” and said that “the double standards of the U.S. government have frustrated a lot of people.”

Students and professors can remedy misunderstandings between the West and the Middle East by having forums and discussing Islam and the Muslim religion openly. Abdullah highly encourages talk between the two cultures, so that a greater understanding will emerge.

Because there is so much nonsense on the Internet, it is important where you get your information from, Abdullah said. The mosque, or Muslim house of worship, in Hawai‘i is one of the best places for students to go and learn more about Muslims and Islam. Two books that Abdullah suggested to read were Collateral Language by John Collins and Ross Grover, and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam by John Esposito. He also suggested that those who want general information read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Islam.

Aside from HPU students and teachers attending the lecture, an international relations class from Chaminade got wind of Abdullah speaking, and came to learn more.

“ He’s relating things to us and he’s providing good examples,” said Chaminade senior John Wallace.

Junior Ana Won Pat-Borja added, “It’s definitely necessary to understand things in context. I liked it when [Abdullah] went in depth and gave us background information. You understand the issue a lot more.”

After the lecture, Abdullah answered questions from students and gave out free books that gave a brief overview about Islam. He, along with other Muslim students, took a 10-minute break during the lecture to pray in a quiet room in the student center.


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