Charles Nailen/The Hoya Mohammed Magid discusses Islam Thursday.

From the moment the news hit the airwaves, the same words kept popping up:

“World Trade Center attacked by Muslim terrorists . Islamic extremists hijack American airplanes … religious group al Qaeda suspected in attack .”

And from the subsequent smattering of vandalisms, insults and even violence directed against the Muslim community in America, it was clear that at least some people linked the tenets of Islam to the terrorism that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

It was this kind of unfair association that led the Georgetown uslim Students Association to hold a lecture and discussion yesterday entitled “Islam vs. Terrorism,” an exploration of Islam’s fundamental principles and how they conflict with terrorism.

The session began with a call to prayer. Among the Muslims performing the ancient prayer rituals was the evening’s speaker, Mohammed Magid, who directs the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society Center in Herndon, Va.

He greeted the audience with a common Islamic salutation: “Salaam aleinu.”

Peace be with you.

“Islam is not on trial here, Muslims are not on trial,” he emphasized as he began his talk. In the past few weeks, he had heard too many people try to define Islam by what it was not, he said. He proceeded in the next several minutes to explain some of what Islam is actually about.

“It says in the Koran that if you kill one person, it is as if you kill all humanity. Just as if you save one person, it is as if you have saved all humanity.” This, he noted, was a maxim that could be found almost verbatim in Christian and Jewish texts as well. Muslims believe, he said, in the “oneness” of God and also a “oneness” of message. The same message was given to Mohammed as was given to oses and Jesus Christ, he said.

“But in order for us to believe in those values, they have to be absolute values,” Magid continued. “God said He created everyone equal … [therefore] if you violate someone’s rights, you violate God’s laws.” One of the most important tenets of Islam, in fact, states that one should be kind to other people, or “deal with people in the best manner,” Magid said. If a person says they believe in Islam but acts contrary to this principle – be it acting rudely to someone on the Metro or crashing an airplane into a building – “This behavior is not Godly behavior,” he said.

According to Magid, Islam discourages discrimination against people based on their race, gender or nationality, said Magid. “[Islam teaches that] everyone deserves to be treated with justice. The property and life of a person must be respected no matter what their nationality.

“There is no justification for killing innocent people. Ever,” he said.

At the end of his talk, some members of the audience wanted to know why, then, were these terrorists being associated with the Islamic religion?

“It is a big question mark what kind of Islam they are practicing,” Magid responded. Some of them, he noted, had been seen prior to the attacks in places not generally approved of by Islam: video arcades, nightclubs and bars (Islam prohibits alcohol consumption).

Muslims and people from the Middle East in attendance often joined the discussion with observations drawn from their religion or country. One student explained al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s perspective: “[He says] he’s meeting violence against innocent civilians with violence against innocent civilians,” he said, noting America’s past bombing of Iraq that claimed a number of innocent people as victims and Israel’s “illegal” occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip.

Rod Jamil (MED, ’04), from Lebanon, noted of bin Laden’s actions: “This guy’s got his own political motivations. You can’t explain what he does based on his faith.”

This emerged as the dominant theme of the evening as the discussion turned to other Muslim beliefs and practices and the various economic and political causes of terrorism in the Middle East.

After more questions and even some heated debate, the talk ended at about 9 p.m., when all participants came together for soda and cookies. As the large and diverse crowd chatted around the dessert table, it called to mind a point from Islamic tradition that Magid had shared earlier:

“When you see someone from far away, you can’t see them [very well], you don’t know if they are a friend or enemy. But up close, you can get to know them . you can get to be their friend.”

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