By Enrique Lopetegui
To be a Muslim in America is hard enough, but to be a Muslim in San Antonio can be extra troublesome.
“There are people who really don’t want us to be here,” said Sarwat Husain, president of the Council on American Islamic Relations-SA. “The John Hagees, Steven Emersons, and Daniel Pipes of San Antonio… Do you want a list? (she laughs) There are so many of them, making millions of dollars while creating hate and confusion.”
Last Thursday, and for the fifth year in a row, Husain and CAIR-SA hosted the inter-religious Ramadan Iftar (the breaking of the Ramadan fast) at an Indian restaurant on Callaghan and I-10. The delicious free feast attracted 42 Muslims, Christians (Catholics, Presbyterian, Lutherans), Sikhs, Hindus, and Jews. Gorgeous free copies of the Koran were distributed, and the atmosphere was that of friendship and mutual respect and, despite Husain’s passionate defense of Islam, her sweet disposition makes CAIR-SA’s peaceful, progressive spirit clear.
“You do what you have to do,” said Husain “That’s all there is to it. Instead of fighting, we need to speak up, because silence is going to hurt this country, which is ours as well. We need to take part in the political system, writing columns, giving talks, inviting people to our mosques.”
Nothing bothers Husain more than misconceptions about Islam.
“Some people still believe that if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim, God will reward him with ‘72 virgins …’ ”, said Husain. “That’s complete nonsense. I defy anyone to show me where in the Koran it says that if you kill a non-Muslim you get 72 virgins. Killing is not allowed in Islam. The Koran says, ‘If you kill one person, it’s as if you have killed the whole universe, and if you save one life, it’s as if you have saved the universe. [The Koran does talk about ‘Houri,’ pure companions given by God to men and women who perform good deeds.]
“And so much about the so-called ‘Jihad.’ If someone occupies your land or does an injustice, you have to fight for it. Wouldn’t you fight for it? But jihad means mainly an inner struggle, making yourself a better person. Those who use jihad to kill innocent people are not real Muslims, but simple terrorists.”
And please, get used to a Muslim woman speaking up for her rights, but do not call her an “Islamist.”
“As soon as you open your mouth they call you a ‘militant Islamist,’ ” she said. “There is no such a thing as an ‘Islamist.’ It’s a very derogative term for us. ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ are good words, but ‘Islamist’ is an invented word, a clever way to say ‘terrorist.’ ”
“In our society in the U.S. we really need to attend more functions regarding Muslim concerns, just to bridge the gaps,” said former District 5 councilwoman Patti Radle, attending her second Ramadan Iftar. “Those gaps are created by our misunderstandings or our ignorance of the Muslim community. We need to build friendships. What Sarwat [Husain] has done inviting people from the community to participate is really good and important.”
While some Westerners ate and others watched attentively, the Muslims in the meeting proceeded to their prayers in the main hall. Yes, the women knelt down behind the men. But Mrs. Husain was the one running the show.
“Whether you’re a Hindu, Muslim, or a Christian, every true religion follows the Ten Commandments and believe in making a better world,” says Husain. “That’s the bottom line.”
For more information, visit www.caisanantonio.com or call (210) 378-9528.
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