A blog post about the positive impact of the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service event, “Islam Comes to Cedar City”, on campus at Southern Utah University on February 20, 2013.
The primary objection that is most associated with mainstream Islam is the concern that it is a religion with deeply cultivated roots in violence. Simply turn on the television, read the newspaper, or browse the internet and according to the mass media you would associate Islam with violence. Northern Africa is in shambles, the Middle East is in constant turmoil, and even the holiest of lands—Israel—has been the battleground of a millennial long holy war. The constant in this equation of perpetual violence: Islam. Despite all of this, to behold prejudices isn’t only unfair, but irrational. I believe these issues are bigger than the religion and have more do with a long history of prideful power-hungry dictators. I had the chance to visit with many members of the Islamic faith at the “Islam Comes to Cedar City” panel that was held this last Thursday, and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience! These wonderful people are not deranged followers of a sadistic religion, but are genuinely good-natured and possess good morals that are enhanced by their belief in God.
Malcom X Changed By Islam
The event brought to mind the story of Malcolm X and his pilgrimage to Mecca. As most know, Malcolm X was a minister in the Nation of Islam (a radical offshoot of mainstream Islam that many of the Muslims I talked to were very quick to dismiss as followers of Islam) who preached a message of black supremacy and supported a “by all means necessary” approach to civil rights. However, while in Hajj during his pilgrimage, he saw many different cultures and races interact peacefully and Malcom X was able to overcome his misguided prejudices of interracial relationships as he learned the 5 pillars of Islam. In fact, it is believed that Malcolm X was later assassinated in part because of his conversion from the Nation of Islam to mainstream Islam. Malcolm X is just one example among millions of people that have been better for understanding Islam; Islam cultivates peace in individuals.
Assalam Alaykum: Peace Be Unto You
The panel discussion helped accentuate the positive aspects of Islam for me. Although, the culture here in southern Utah and the United States has a long way to go before truly understanding the peaceful nature of Islam, last Thursday’s event was a tremendous step forward towards one day achieving that ideal. The common Arabic greeting “As-salam alaykum (السلام عليكم)“ sums up Islam the best, which translates to “peace be unto you.”
Jordan Cox is a Senior Economics major at Southern Utah University.
Photography credit to Jay Sorenson, Dillon Rosdahl, and SUU Design.