Our first day in Chicago turned out to be very informative. First, we visited the Islamic Center, where we observed the second (there are five) prayer of the day. The men and women pray in separate areas; if women are in the same area as men, they are to sit in the back. Muslims always pray in the direction of their holy land, Mecca, no matter what location they may be in. In Chicago, this direction is northeast. We witnessed the men performing various actions, including touching their face to the ground (prostrating), bowing forward, and lifting their hands up in the air to shake loose any idols they may have had up their sleeves.
The men also stood in straight lines, shoulder to shoulder. These actions were done in imitation of their profit, Mohammed. Muslims recognize five pillars, or areas, of their religion, such as worshipping only one god (Allah) and donating 2.5% of their excess income to the poor. Muslims identify ninety ways to describe Allah. Our Muslim speaker communicated to us several facts regarding their holy book, the Koran. As a result of this experience, we now have more positive feelings toward the religion of Islam.
Our second activity for the day was to visit the Chicago Council for Global Affairs, where we had the honor of meeting with the author of “How to Win a Cosmic War,” Reza Aslan. He was born in Iran, but now resides in Los Angeles. He is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. Aslan began with the statement, “Words do matter,” to describe the attitude we take in discussing foreign affairs, particularly our current war against the Middle East. Aslan explained the positive effects President Obama’s “new tone” has had on these conflicts. This has partially led a better understanding behind the Islamic nationalists and the Jihadist trans-nationalists. Islamist groups strive to gain something concrete, and can therefore be negotiated with, but Jihadist organizations want nothing attainable, so the United States is unable to make compromises with them. Aslan posed the question, “Are we giving Islamist groups a chance to fail?”
We were amazed to hear the comparisons made by Aslan regarding the numerous religious groups, such as Nationalists (secular/social contract); Trans-nationalists [Huckabee, Likud (Israel), Hindu Nationalism (India)]; Islamists [Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt), Hezbollah, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hamas]. We were also stunned to learn that from Morocco to South Asia, the Muslim population is very young (75% are below the age of 35 and 50% are below the age of 25). They are a globalized, technological generation. Our security becomes advances when we recognize the importance of developing these nations.
Aslan autographed a copy of his newest book “How to Win a Cosmic War” for the Culver-Stockton library. “In this provocative and engaging book, Reza Aslan shows why he is one of America’s leading analysts of the confusing and frightening forces that confront us. It is Aslan’s great gift to see things clearly, and to say them clearly, and in this important new work he offers us a way forward. He is prescriptive and passionate, and his book will make you think.” To end the night, we enjoyed conversation and a German feast at The Berghoff.
Posted by: Katie Harris, Amanda Hanlin, and Dr. Sherer
Posted at 10:45 PM by Katie Harris