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Kendyl’s Column: Adult Religious Education Series on Islam

It is not true that all religions are in some sense ‘really’ the same. The diversity of the human spirit is larger than that. What is true, in my observation, is that all religions deal with many of the same dilemmas of the human condition, and wrestle with the same questions. But the answers they come up with are distinct, and it is worth some attention to understand those differences. Particularly as our global village becomes more and more interconnected, and religions are less a function of geography than of heritage and conviction. Once upon a time, and not so long ago, Islam was regarded as one of the exotic ‘world religions’; something closer akin to Hinduism and Buddhism than to the so-called ‘JudeoChristian tradition.’ Today, of course, the Muslim faith is the stuff of headlines, and debate rages as to whether it is entitled to the protections of the separation between church and state, or whether its adherents are so inherently dangerous that they should have to register with the government. Yet most Americans have only the most cursory knowledge about Islam, and much of what they ‘know’ is not even accurate. In order to have an intelligent opinion about anything that is going on either in the Middle East, or among the almost 3 million Muslim US citizens, as well as arriving refugees and immigrants, all of us need to become more familiar with some of the basic ideas of Islam and its history. There are tensions within the Muslim community, both ancient and modern, that have shaped the practices of that faith, and continue to divide its believers among themselves.

What is the difference between Shi’a and Sunni?
What is the meaning of Jihad, and al-Queda?
How does generational tension express itself in today’s Islam?
What is Shari’a law?
How are peace and war understood in Muslim traditions?

What are the parallels between Christianity and Islam? It is also important for Unitarian Universalists to be aware of the ways in which our own religious history intersects with Islamic influences. If it were not for the Ottoman Empire and the centuries of Muslim influence in Spain, our church would not exist as it does today. Explore these ideas and questions with Rev. Gibbons in our six session winter adult religious education series on Islam. You can choose the day time class, which meets from 1:00 to 2:30 on Wednesdays, starting January 20, or the Thursday evening group, which begins January 21, from 7:00 to 8:30. We won’t become experts, but we will try to arrive at a balanced grasp of the basics, and a place from which to understand what is at stake for believers, as the on-going cultural and religious struggles continue to unfold. — Rev. Kendyl