Re-examining Islam's role

Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 at 10:38 p.m.

On PBS recently, there was a program about pilgrimage to Mecca. Among the pilgrims was a blond and blue-eyed American woman. There was also a black man from South Africa. There were two million on pilgrimage.

The activities were centered on getting closer to God by visiting sites that had been visited by Muhammad and Abraham. This was a very rare glimpse into the Muslim world and an interesting one.

If one thinks about it, we owe a large debt to Islam. Our numbers are Arabic numerals. They are used universally around the world. Even China, which has a rich history could have used its own numbers, but uses Arabic numbers.

When Europe was in the Dark Ages, the Muslims were running the best universities in the world. Some of these were in Spain. A number of Christian students went to Spain to study. One of them was a monk by the name of Gregory of Cremona. He eventually became a Pope.

The Koran put a new perspective on the religious world. It validated many of the famous biblical personalities, such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus. It also believes in only one God. It respected the "people of the Book" which included Jews and Christians.

Many of the contributions of the past have been forgotten. Now many Muslims hate the Jews. In Saudi Arabia today, there are no Christian churches and none are permitted. Nationalism, politics and religion have gotten mixed together in a deadly combination.

There is a need to step back and have everyone re-examine their present positions. Diversity can be a source of strength. Now is the time to realize that mankind is one family and it is time for us to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.

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