Religious Studies and Theology
I conducted the interview with Dr. Mohammed Qamar of the University of North Texas who specializes in psychiatry. Dr. Mohammed Qamar is an American Muslim. The interview was conducted on a number of views regarding the Muslim religion. I decided to conduct my interview with a Muslim man because I am biased towards the Christian religion to which I belong. I also wanted to be aware of some Muslim issues, be knowledgeable about the religion and know the differences that exist between Muslims and Christians in regard to how we live in a contemporary society. During the interview, Dr. Qamar discussed family, relationships, cultural differences, diet, belief of afterlife, apparel decency, wedding, marriage, abortion, and as life as a Muslim living in the US. This paper will examine the religious interview that I conducted with a Muslim scholar and his views on major discussion points of the Islamic religion. The interview also discussed on his views concerning terrorism, being an American Muslim in the contemporary American society.
Some of the most difficult conflicts faced by Americans recently concerns religious identity. This is why I chose the topic and I was lucky to interviewer a Muslim scholar whose insights will help ones understanding of religious tolerance in an increasingly globalized society.
I started by asking Qamar about their diet and why they ban the consumption of some food. The good doctor shared some insights on how they are guided by the Quran in most of the things they carry out like eating Halal, relationships, or life after death. The Quran apparently forbids Muslims from eating birds, pork, and beasts of prey. They can only consume meat from other animals if they are certified to be raised in a humane manner and is disease free. How they will know if the animal was raised in a humane manner is beyond my understanding especially if they will visit a butcher for a piece of steak. Being born in a Muslim family, I felt that the Qamar was the right person to share more insights into the Islamic religion and their beliefs.
As the interview progressed, I realized that Islamic religion is one that resembles Christianity. My earlier view of the religions was quashed as we continued the interview with the good doctor detailing how they are guided by the five pillars of Islam. I realized that unlike what were are used to, Islam is a religion of peace and that the obligations to God like forgiveness are all universal obligations that even Christians have to fulfill before they can enter heaven. To understand Islam as a religion better, it will need one to extensively read the Quran and understand it like Qamar did. But there were some stark differences too between the two religions.
I was not surprised when Qamar told me that decency is central in Islamic dressing. I personally like the fact that Muslim adherents do not overexpose their bodies like what I am used on the streets. However, I felt that he did not detail why women are compelled to wear the hijab or why Muslim women are required to cover their faces. Personally I thought he did not want to expose the discrimination these women undergo back in Muslim countries. Most of the interview questions I asked the doctor, he answered quoting the Quran reflecting his deep religious views. Some questions that required his personal views were answered on the basis of the religion. I really liked it that way; despite being in America which is predominantly a Christian society, Qamar is still a great follower and an adherent to Islamic religious views. But he sounded like a scholar who can change the religion to better reflect what the Quran dictates and not what other people misinterpret of the religious book. For example, his views about polygamy are that it is an outdated practice that should be shelved in the modern era. The issue of Muslim men marrying four wives is an old tradition that cannot be supported in modern times. His other beliefs on abortion and suicide reflect a person who is strictly a Muslim at heart. The religion abhors both acts but abortion can only be done when the life of the mother is greatly in danger.
Being an American Muslim, the interview would not have ended without asking him about his personal safety especially with the election of Donald Trump whose rhetoric of banning all Muslims from entering the US may have rubbed many Muslims the wrong way.
I further nudged him on a very sensitive question regarding terrorism especially by Muslims in the US. He first said that he abhorred that kind of violence as it wrecks families. He too grieves with American families that are affected by such atrocities. He however agrees that in terms of terrorist attacks, it portrays a negative impact on people who fear the religion. There is a lot of negative propaganda against Islam as a religion especially in the last two years that he said portrays the religion negatively.
I realized that Christianity and Islam are two religions that have many similarities in terms of celebrations, although they are held on different days of the calendar. The Quran and the Bible too contain a number of similarities that we should study more. Eid ulFitr and Eid Ul Adha can be loosely taken to mean Easter holiday and Christmas.
In an increasingly global world, it is important that we understand not only our religion but the religion of others too. We need to develop a framework to work with individuals whose religion, background and experiences do not match ours. We need to sharpen our skills in how we can listen, question and how to value other peoples religion and their beliefs. There is great importance in understanding ones own religion but also important to be knowledgeable about other religions. Islamic religion is a well misunderstood religion and is linked to terrorism. But the interview with Qamar is an eye opener in how the Quran, strikingly similar to the Bible, advocates the same obligations towards God. The interview also let me to examine and appreciate the differences between worlds biggest religions, Christianity and Islam. In spite of all these appreciation of the Islamic religion, there are some aspects of the religion I disliked. The first issue is the one requiring men to marry four wives. I think this is wrong and in a way diminishes the worthy of women in our society. The other is the issue of women wearing hijabs to cover their faces. I bet it is wrong for a religion to prescribe that women cover their faces and women do not. That is prejudice and I am against it. I also abhor the issue of Muslims using the name of their religion to mete terror on some people and countries. Since 9/11, a number of Islamic terrorists have used religion to threaten or actually carry out terrorist activities in the US and other countries. But I loved the interview in general. Now, I am more aware that my interviewees religion is actually about and where my beliefs and values are. From my recognition of the above, I am more conscious of Islamic religion and in general Muslims are coming from. I am now able to recognize and appreciate the differences that exist between different religions.