Leaders in Islam and Christianity discuss religious discrimination

 

By Durgin McCue

Staff Writer

On Mar. 18 at 6:00 p.m. a lecture was held in the BTC meeting rooms to address discrimination in Christianity and Islam. The event was organized by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Campus Ministry. The two speakers at the event, Reverend Alexandra Lusak and Imam Faisal Ahmad, spoke about the ideology and practices of their respective religions.

Lusak, a retired United Presbyterian reverend, was the first to speak. She opened by briefly discussing her experience of becoming a female minister.

“My standing right here in front of you is a testament to the fact that discrimination in Christianity has been dealt with in some ways,” said Lusak. “When I was growing up in a Presbyterian church in eastern Pennsylvania there were no women in the pulpit; There were no women officers at all.”

Lusak said that most of the women in church at that time were given jobs in the kitchens or caring for children. She spoke of hearing about another woman who had successfully become ordained and being inspired by this.

“For the first time I was able to think that, my goodness, women can do that,” she said. “Until about the 1950s there were no women in my denomination. The first women was ordained in 1956; that’s not that long ago.”

Lusak gave some specific examples of when Christians have acted in the spirit of discrimination to commit crimes, which she condemned. The list contained such episodes as the Pogroms, the Crusades, and the Holocaust, as well as the burning of a Quran, the holy book of Islam, by a pastor in Florida.

“There are any number of instances of discrimination throughout the history of Christianity right up until the present day,” she said.

Lusak also noted the lack of diversity in many Christian congregations across the U.S.

“Sunday morning has been called the most segregated hour of the week,” she said. “If one were to walk through congregations in the United States, they would find that most congregations are pretty uniform in terms of their racial makeup.”

Lusak concluded by voicing her strong support of the LGBTQ community and talking about supersessionism within Christian sects. Supersessionism is a belief that one religion or sect is superior to another.

She also read a parable describing the Bible as a wheat field with weeds growing in it; the wheat represented divine wisdom and the weeds represented folly.

Shortly after Lusak finished her lecture, Imam Ahmad took to the podium. Ahmad recited a short prayer before he began his lecture discussing discrimination within Islam.

Ahmad started by telling the crowd what he believed to be the cause of discrimination and how Islam dealt with it.

“The Quran describes the first event of discrimination, which was done by Lucifer when he did not bow down before Adam,” said Ahmad. “Lucifer says: I am better than him; you created me from fire and you created him from clay.”

He continued to say that the Quran teaches that arrogance and feelings of superiority play a significant role in acts of discrimination. He went further to say that thinking “I am better than him” is a satanic thought in the eyes of Islam.

“Arrogance is a disease of the heart,” said Ahmad. “Sometimes it’s under the guise of nationalism, tribalism, or racism. All of these are just words that describe this disease of the heart.”

Ahmad discussed a passage from the Quran about the diversity of the world.

“Basically, God is saying that he created you from these nations and tribes in order that diversity be a type of richness,” said Ahmad. “Diversity is a sign of God.”

Ahmad concluded his half of the lecture by speaking about the importance of loving God in Islam.

“The one factor that is used to determine if one person is better than another is God consciousness,” said Ahmad. “Thats the only criteria. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, rich or poor.”

There were roughly 60 people in attendance at the event including several members of the MSA, members of Imam Ahmad’s family, and a psychology class.

Mujib Sharif, a dental hygiene major at Hudson Valley, was attending the event to learn more about Christianity.

“I am Muslim myself so I know about Islam, but I wanted to see the differences between Christianity and Islam,” said Sharif. “I learned how Christianity actually has some similar teachings to what the Islamic perception is.”

Cylon George, Hudson Valley’s chaplain of the campus ministry, said the event was organized to discuss how Christianity and Islam deal with discrimination.

“The larger goal of events like these is to help people understand the perspectives from those we may consider different from us in order to promote understanding and dialogue,” said George. “I believe the accomplishment of this goal in an ongoing process.”

 

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