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Quran a model for Muslims

Liz Harter | Thursday, November 13, 2008

The American Muslim population is working towards becoming the model community outlined in the Quran, Jamillah Karim, an assistant professor of religion at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., said at a lecture in Stapleton Lounge at Saint Mary’s Wednesday.

Karim began her lecture by quoting from the Quran and explaining how the text states Muslims should strive to be like the prophet Muhammad.

“The Prophet Muhammad loved most those people who were most beneficial to others and most helpful in helping others bear burdens,” Karim said. “We have to become a people that benefit humanity and not harm people. Muslims are expected to live up to prophetic guidance and become model community.”

Karim said it seems as though American Muslims are “severely failing” to meet the expectation to become a model community because of Muslim extremism and violence.

“This paints and ugly picture of the world and the Muslim community,” she said. “We have to make it clear that we stand against this violence.”

American Muslims are unique in the fact that Islam includes both Muslims who immigrated to the United States and native-born Americans who have converted to the religion, Karim said.

“The significant population of native-born American converts are African-American because of the early success of the religion in appealing to the social realities of blacks,” she said. “However, Islam is also appealing to white Americans. Out of the 20,000 conversions which occur each year … 27 percent are whites.”

These conversions have continued after Sept. 11 even though many Americans report having unfavorable views of Muslims, Karim said.

“Most Americans have been tolerant and respectful in interactions,” she said.

Karim said she thinks Muslims have found a place in American society and have been able to begin building towards the model community because Muslim ideals match well with American ideals.

“Ethnic diversity and racial harmony are American ideals so Islam functions as a valuable contribution to American life,” she said.

Karim has a personal vision of how the American Muslim community will emerge as the model community.

“We need to become a community that challenges racial and class inequalities and challenges people to see how they share a common background with others,” she said. “It’s not only a Muslim ideal, but an American ideal. We share a common commonality as those of different religions and class backgrounds.”

This commonality is important because it will allow American Muslims to become the model community, she said.

“There is a struggle and reflection that remains, but a bright future is possible,” she said. “It depends on both Muslims and non-Muslims. We are all here together whether we are born here or emigrate here.”