As with most Americans, I've been hearing and reading a lot about Muslims in the news for the last few years. The news has made me want to learn more about this strange and mysterious creature. So I decided to ask an average Muslim named Sherkhan, an American-born son of Pakistani immigrants, (who has been a friend of mine for years, considering he's come over to my house numerous times for Passover and I've observed the fast for the holy month of Ramadan with him, we went to college together and traveled to China since).
Our interview was conducted over email, because he is in Egypt right now.
Q: Are you a terrorist?
A: Well I do get pretty angry when my team loses in the Finals after being up 2-0 (see www.nba/mavericks/)
Q: Do you hate America?
A: No, I just hate pussies who blog about religions they know nothing about and then hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to escape the well deserved condemnation from their fellow Americans.
Q: Do you agree with al-Qaeda's aims?
A: No, they are a nihilistic terrorist organization that targets civilians and uses the banner of Islam to justify their atrocities. The Quran is a very explicit on the subject of suicide and the killing of innocent people. Commit suicide--you go to hell, no exceptions.
Q: What's up with those 72 virgins?
A: Its actually a translation thing. Arabic The Islamic scholar Yusuf Ali defines the word "Houris" in his English interpretation of Qu'ran as "Youths of perpetual freshness." He also described them in his commentary: "The companionship of Beauty and Grace is one of the highest pleasures of life. In this bodily life it takes bodily form. In the higher life it takes a higher form...The pronoun in Arabic is in the feminine gender. It is made clear that these maidens for heavenly society will be of special creation,-of virginal purity, grace, and beauty, inspiring and inspired by love, with the question of time and age eliminated." Women get the same deal.
A more complete explanation can be found at:
Q: What's your view on Israel?
A: I believe that Israel was created after the atrocities of WWII and that Jews were desperate to create a homeland of their own. I don't think its appropriate for countries to be based on ethnic /religious lines alone, even though that's how almost every country outside the Western Hemisphere is. Still, Israel's been there for 50+ years and time tends to legitimize things (I wouldn't want Pocahontas' ancestors launching a guerrilla war to drive me into the sea.) It's also remarkable how much territory they have returned after military capture (Sinai, Lebanon, Gaza) On the other hand the wall they have been building in the West Bank is turning it into an apartheid state. I could go on for pages, but to sum up: Israel should not be destroyed, Zionism is bad, all people should have freedom to worship in in Jerusalem.
Q: What's your view of Jews?
A: Jews are awesome. Where would we be without Whoopi Goldberg? --She's Jewish right? Actually Muslims revere Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians as peoples of the Book. The messages are generally the same, and Islam sees itself as a continuation of the Jewish and Christian messages. In fact, all Muslims around the world pray towards a house of God built by a Jew (Abraham).
Q: How do you feel about Christians?
A: Christians are great. I am most impressed with the volunteer and community service work that many churches do. Nuns are awesome. Whatever happened to that show where Sally Fields is the nun that can fly with that hat?
Q: Why were some Muslims offended by the Danish cartoons that depicted Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist?
A: There are a few main reasons: First, it is forbidden to show the image of the Prophet Muhammad (be it painting, sculpture, cartoon...) Second, not only was it the image of the Prophet, but it was a derogatory one with a bomb wrapped around his turban etc. Another thing is that most of the people in Muslim countries live under authoritarian governments, so 'freedom of speech' is not really acknowledge there--many people there think that if it got printed in the paper it must have had a government sanction/approval, even though there was nothing that the Danish government could do.
Q: Were you offended?
A: Hell yes I was offended. The cartoons are very derogatory, but what it does is highlight the double standards and thinly veiled racism that exists in Europe towards Muslims. Listen, we have a free press in America too, but just because you have the ability to offend and insult religions, doesn't make it right to do so. Most European countries guard and cultivate their culture, which is one of the reasons why its such a great place to visit. Part of the European identity is Christianity; being Muslim and being European seem to be mutually exclusive at this point (which is not the case in America).
Q: What takes place in a mosque during Friday prayers?
A: People go to the mosque for the middle prayer (Asr) around noontime. You listen to a sermon and then you pray together. The sermon can be given by anyone in the community, and often is coupled with the Imam's speech. The talks vary, from the importance of charity (zakat) or education, or chastity, or anything else you can think of.
Q: Do you still think Dirk Nowitzki is a good defensive player?
A: Yes, he is a good team defender. Rebounds and blocks are part of team defense.
So there you have it. While I did describe Sherkhan as "an average Muslim," he is only one person, not over one billion (the number of Muslims in the world). There are plenty of Muslims who know good defense when they see it.