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Interfaith class explores Islam

November 18, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

Sunny Harrell explored Judaism and Christianity in September, but she was especially interested in learning about Islam during a Thursday evening class.

Islam was the third in a series of religions taught at the Hagerstown YMCA and coordinated by The Interfaith Coalition of Washington County.

Harrell, of Hagerstown, said it was the images of Muslims, terrorists and discussion about faith and terrorist bombings that drove her to learn more. From what little she knew, she believed Islam was a peaceful religion - a point Dr. Karen Gray, who lead the Thursday class, emphasized.

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"After Sept. 11, 2001, Americans distrusted Muslims, so I saw this (course) as an opportunity to learn more about Islam along with people of all religions," Harrell said.

Gray talked to a group of more than 50 people for nearly two hours about the history of Islam and its common ground with other religions, like Judaism and Christianity. Gray, a Hagerstown resident, teaches lifelong learning courses at Hagerstown Community College and other institutions, and is a religious scholar trained at Harvard Divinity School in Boston, Mass.

Larry Barkdoll, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., said he is a follower of Baha'i - a religion founded on the spiritual unity of all faiths. He was especially interested in hearing the similarities among the many religions.

"There are many paths to God," said Karin Nowack of Hagerstown.

Glenn Rohrer of Boonsboro said he grew up Christian, but attended Gray's lecture because he believed it was increasingly important to understand other religions.

"It seems like it would be good to understand the different religions," he said. "I was surprised at how many things came out tonight that I learned in seminary. There are a lot of similarities."

Gray said the group was not expected to take away a complete knowledge of Islam from the lecture, which covered an extensive amount of material very quickly.

But Lieba Cohen of Hagerstown said she believes she has a better concept of the philosophy of Islam and a broader understanding of the religion from an intellectual standpoint.

"You just get to think about it," she said. "After this, you really get to read up on it. You are just getting a little nugget here."

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