On the Record: Faith, Fear and Freedom
Posted December 11, 2015
Updated March 24, 2016
In December 2015, WRAL News anchor David Crabtree brought together Muslim leaders, scholars and community members for a conversation about how anti-Muslim rhetoric is impacting how Muslims live, work and worship. They discussed efforts to prevent, identify and report extremism.
We'll continue to sponsor and share community conversations about how our multi-cultural community can live in peace. We welcome your comments and questions on Twitter to @WRAL using #NCMuslims.
The conversation continues
Our live, half-hour conversation is followed by a rebroadcast of our 2012 documentary on the subject, Faith, Fear and Freedom.
Questions about Islam and Muslims in NC*
*Answers from the Islamic Association of Raleigh
There is no definite way to measure this number because the U.S. Census Bureau does not track individuals' religious beliefs. However, we estimate that between 70,000 and 75,000 Muslims live in North Carolina.
We do not have enough information to answer this question since we do not survey the Muslim community on their place of birth.
I have heard that jihad means ‘holy war’ and that all Muslims are required to observe it. Why should I trust them?
The term "jihad" actually does not mean "holy war." Rather, it means "struggle," and is most frequently used to describe the struggle that individuals face within themselves to become better people.
For example, a person may experience a "personal jihad" to improve their health through dieting and exercise. Through this lens, Muslims are indeed challenged to constantly improve themselves.
Outward "jihad" in the form of physical action against other people is only permissible under very specific circumstances, such as self defense against invasion or to stop an injustice. The "jihad" that misguided radicals proclaim to be "holy war" is not permissible under any circumstances in Islam.
Muslims worship in multiple ways, but the most regular and visible is through five daily prayers. During these prayers, Muslims stand in rows and prostrate and bow while facing Mecca. The timings of the prayers are: 1) Early morning before sunrise; 2) Midday; 3) Late afternoon; 4) Immediately after sunset; and 5) After dark. Muslims are permitted to do these prayers in any place, which is why they may be seen praying in parks, schools and workplaces. Muslims also attend a weekly congregational service on Friday afternoons around midday.
The head covering worn by many Muslim women, known as "hijaab," reflects the Islamic principle of modesty. This principle applies to all Muslims, regardless of gender, but is practiced in different ways. Like most religious practices, the "hijaab" is a deeply personal and spiritual obligation and may vary in practice from person to person.
Like every other Abrahamic faith, Islam offers its followers a code of conduct by which to live with one another. The Islamic code of conduct, the "Sharia," is designed to protect individuals' rights to well-being and social justice. However, like codes of conduct in every faith, "Sharia" can be misused by some to pursue personal agendas.
Unfortunately, the "Sharia" has been very misrepresented as a kind of martial law that supports oppression of women and prohibits individual freedoms. On the contrary, the "Sharia" offers Muslims guidance on how to live a life of modesty, generosity and peace while preserving the entire community's well being.
As an example, Muslims are prohibited by the "Sharia" to collect or owe interest in their personal finances. The underlying objective of this prohibition is to protect consumers from the unjust burdens of debt which can weigh a society down and create wealth inequality. The "Sharia" offers alternatives to traditional debt contracts to help Muslims with their personal finances such as purchasing homes and cars. These "Sharia-compliant" services place less risk and debt burden on the individual and protect them from falling into a cycle of indebtedness and poverty.
The State of North Carolina, like many other states, did pass a law banning foreign laws from consideration in court cases. The law was widely believed to target "Sharia law." However, this ban was rooted in a misunderstanding and fear of Islam and "Sharia law."
Though it has been misused or misinterpreted in very rare instances, "Sharia law" does not challenge or threaten our state and federal laws. In fact, Muslims are commanded in the "Sharia" to obey and uphold the laws of the land in which they live.
ISIS and other radical groups such as Boko Haram and Al Qaeda have made abundantly clear to the global Muslim community that they have very little understanding of Islam and its teachings. Experts who have observed these groups point out that they are typically not well educated in Islamic theology, have very poor Quranic literacy and often do not practice the faith regularly.
These groups have emerged as a result of decades of violence and war in Muslim-majority countries. The individuals joining these groups are often prone to violence as a result of exposure to war. In some cases, they may have experienced significant personal loss such as the death of loved ones during war, which may have triggered a violent response in them. Regardless of their circumstances, they all appear to have one thing in common: their goals are rooted in their lust for violence and not in any religious teachings.
They have killed far more Muslims than people of other religions because they believe that common Muslims stand in their way of global violence. Muslims are typically the first and largest barrier to the growth of these groups; in fact, mosques and Muslim gathering places have been primary targets of their violence. If they had a fundamental understanding of Islam, they would realize that "Whosoever kills a single soul ... it is as if he has killed all of humanity. And whosoever saves a single soul, it is as if he has saved all of humanity." (Quran, 5:32)
It is incumbent on Muslims to respect their neighbors and build bridges of understanding and kindness with others. You should never hesitate to approach your Muslim neighbor or colleague and ask questions. The Islamic Center of Raleigh and other Triangle area mosques welcome visitors to come and learn about Islam and Muslims as well.
Learning about Islam
Reporting suspicious activity
Triangle-area Islamic organizations
Islamic Association of Raleigh
Islamic Center of Morrisville
Masjid Ibad Ar-Rahman in Durham
Islamic Association of Cary
North Raleigh Masjid
Muslim life at Duke University
N.C. State Muslim Student Association
UNC Muslim Students Association
National religious organizations
The Light House Project: furthering the legacies of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha
After the shooting: Chapel Hill conversations
Muslim Public Affairs Council
Council on American-Islamic Relations
US Council of Muslim Organizations
Inner-City Muslim Action Network