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Islamic group seeks 'friendship and understanding'

October 31, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN -- Dr. Mohammad Haq said there is a common concern expressed among the Muslim community.

"The media choose a representative for Muslims who actually do not represent them," said Haq, of Hagerstown. "We feel very frustrated,"

That fallacious representative, he said, is the Taliban.

In an effort to promote a better understanding of Islam, Haq said, the Islamic Society of Western Maryland hosted an interfaith event. Nearly 100 people with varying ideas on faith gathered Saturday at Beaver Creek Country Club for breakfast, a lecture and a question-and-answer session.

Haq, a member of the Islamic Society and the group's Interfaith Committee chairman, said people in the Muslim world and people in the West receive a lot of misinformation about one another.

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"We are making this attempt to get to know each other and help each other to develop friendship and understanding," he said.

Haq said he tries to convey a positive vision of the United States when he visits Pakistan.

"As a personal ambassador, you manipulate information in a positive way. I could say, 'Washington is a terrible place to live. It's the murder capitol of America. Six hundred people die there every year and it's Christians killing Christians there.' But what have I done? I have humiliated my country," he said.

Instead, Haq said he tells people in Pakistan "how kind and conscientious the people of America are, how much they care about other people in the world, how they support democracy and well-being in other parts of the world."

Shaykh Nooruddeen Durkee provided the keynote address. Durkee is an editor, translator and author, and directs the Green Mountain Branch of the Shadhdhuli School for the Tranquillity of Being and the Illumination of Hearts in Charlottesville, Va. Attendees followed along with a paper handout titled "Islam 101."

The address highlighted principles of Islam such as "testifying that there is no deity but Allah" and the orders of sentient beings -- angels, jinn and humans.

"I touched on points so people can take home where are our similarities and where are our differences, and what do we actually believe," Durkee said.

The question-and-answer session opened with a Christian attendee acknowledging the history of violence in the Christian tradition, and inquiring about the role of violence in Islam. Durkee responded, in part, saying about 10 percent of all people are psychopaths.

"There are Jewish psychopaths, Christian psychopaths, Muslim psychopaths and Buddhist psychopaths," he said. "Irrespective of religion, they use religion for their own ends. Are they following their religion? No."

Christin Lynch, 29, of Hagerstown, is studying for a master's degree in social work. She said she attended the event because being "culturally competent" is a core value of social work.

"I came to gain a better understanding of the Islamic community," Lynch said. "Now, when I have the privilege to work with someone of this faith, I'll better understand what the needs are."

Eleanor and Robert Stough, both 83, of Hagerstown, attend Hagerstown Church of the Brethren. Eleanor Stough said the couple went "to get a better knowledge of Islam in order to better understand what is going on in our world today."

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