Following violent anti-American protests unleashed in many Middle Eastern and Muslim countries by the release in the U.S. of an amateur online video lambasting the Prophet Muhammad VOA’s Mohamed Elshinnawi spoke to Imam Hassan Qazwini, President of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, to ask about how American Muslims reacted to the clip and what they think should be done to address American misconceptions about Islam.
Below are some excerpts of Imam Qazwini’s responses. For a fuller version of the interview, check the sound file below.
Islam and violence
In the United States, American Muslims reacted in most part rationally and reasonably [to the movie]. They spoke on different occasions in press conferences. Their imams have spoken in Friday prayers, and in general, they have condemned both the movie that carried a very negative message toward Islam and, at the same time, they condemned the violence that was directed against the diplomats in Libya and elsewhere. Islam does not tolerate killing. Islam does not believe that violence is the most appropriate way to resolve differences.
Freedom of speech
Now, we who live in the United States, we understand that the Constitution of the United States ensures every citizen to express his or her opinion freely, but this idea remains so elusive in the Middle East. Many people say, ‘How come when it comes to Islam, Islam is being attacked day and night in the United States? Our prophet is being attacked.’ … Moses, Jesus, Abraham are well respected in the Muslim world, therefore they anticipate this respect for their Prophet as well in the United States.
Educating Americans about Islam
I think Muslim Americans can play a major role in this country by using also the freedom of expression to educate Americans about their own faith, and by dispelling many misconceptions that exist in the minds of millions of Americans about Islam. Muslims should not sit in their homes and mosques and only condemn what happens against their religion. Rather, I think they have to be more active and more involved in public live in this country. They have to participate fully…. Otherwise, if we remain silent in this country, I’m afraid that the extremists abroad will hijack Islam and they will produce their own image about Islam, which is very negative.
Listen to a fuller version of our interview with Imam Qazwini (6:43):
Egyptian-American Mohamed Elshinnawi is a senior reporter at VOA. He covered the Middle East peace process from Camp David in 1978 through the 1993 Oslo Agreements to Syrian-Israeli talks in 2000. He interviewed Arab heads of state, prime ministers, foreign ministers and as well as ranking U.S. officials, including members of Congress. He hosted "Dialogue with the West," a live TV show which, broadcast via satellite from Washington, reached 35 million Arabs. He is fluent in Arabic and English.