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Attacks sparking interest in Islam


By JOE ATKINSON, Courier & Press staff writer
(812) 464-7450 or atkinson@evansville.net



 


VINCENT PUGLIESE / Courier & Press Mohamad Alhomsi answers a question from the audience at Carter Hall on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana on Monday evening.

 



The demand for information has been so great that the Islamic Society ran out of copies of the Islamic holy text, the Koran, for a while.

 

For the last two weeks, people have been asking Mohamad Alhomsi about his religion.

“In the last three weeks, there is a lot of curiosity about Islam,” Alhomsi said. “A lot of people want to know, ‘What is this religion?’”

Tuesday night, Alhomsi, the prayer leader for the Islamic Society of Evansville, got to answer all of those questions and more when he spoke at the “Understanding Islam” seminar at the University of Southern Indiana.

About 50 people turned out for the event, scheduled to educate people about the religion in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Doug Carneal, a graduate student studying German and Spanish, decided to coordinate the event to make himself feel better after an incident the day after the attacks.

“I was in the Eagles Nest (student lounge) to study that morning, and a Middle Eastern student came in, and he was walking around real fast, acting nervous, left, came back in, knocked over a chair and then left,” Carneal said.

“I got to thinking, what was going on in his mind, and I just got to thinking, how would I feel if I was in another country and terrorists from the United States attacked it?”

Alhomsi said he hasn’t had a problem with being in America, but has gotten a slew of questions about his faith. The demand has been so great that the Islamic Society ran out of copies of the Islamic holy text, the Koran, for a while, he said.

Tuesday night, he spoke for about 45 minutes on subjects including the Koran, the benefits of fasting and the differences between Islam and Christianity.

One of the most misunderstood facets of Islam, he said, is the place of Jesus within the religion.

“Islam is very close to Christianity,” Alhomsi said. “We love Jesus. We respect Jesus, peace be upon him. But we do not worship Jesus.”

Instead, Jesus and several others are viewed by Muslims as prophets, he said.

But perhaps the most important message of the night, Carneal said, was one of those that inspired the gathering in the first place — that not all Muslims are like those portrayed on television.

“If you see people from the Middle East, you can’t help but relate it to what you see on television,” Carneal said.

“But it’s like with the KKK in America; if all people can see about Americans is the Ku Klux Klan, they would think we all were like that.

“So we can’t think that all the images we see on television are representative of all Islamic society.”

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