Music, video, info mark Islam panel

By Andy Medici

The Islamic Studies Group hosted a panel discussion Wednesday night to teach people about… The Islamic Studies Group hosted a panel discussion Wednesday night to teach people about the history of Islam and the Islamic view of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The event began with traditional Islamic music, along with video footage of various towns and cities around the world, including Milet and Didim.

Omar Slater, president of the Islamic Council of Pittsburgh, spoke about the history of Islam and some common misperceptions of the religion among non-Muslims.

He added that, though the media tends only to focus on Arab Muslims, there are many different Muslim groups in the religion. According to Slater, African-Americans make up 42 percent of Muslim Americans, and Islam has been in the United States since the country’s founding.

“We’ve been here all along,” he said.

Bekir Aksoy, president of the Golden Generation Foundation, also spoke during the evening, focusing on how Sept. 11, 2001 has affected Islam.

Aksoy began by comparing the lack of an open dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims after the attacks to the situation that arose after the publication of Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses.”

“Sept. 11 is so deep that we cannot analyze it tonight,” Aksoy said.

Aksoy stopped speaking for a moment to honor the attacks’ victims with a prayer recited in Arabic.

Aksoy also took a moment to acknowledge the hard work of Fethullah Gulen. Gulen travels the world, meeting with top religious leaders to open up dialogue between Muslims and members of the world’s other major religions. He also has written many pieces on communication between Muslims and the rest of the world.

After his speech, the audience was allowed to ask the speakers questions.

Former New York City police officer Bill Strachan, who lost a supervisor and two fellow officers in the attacks, asked how the attacks had affected the integration of Islam into American society.

According to Slater, “The people who are truly most affected are the children.”

Aksoy answered Strachan with a personal story.

He and his brother-in-law, Emin Arslan, were driving at night when their car broke down, forcing them to pull over to the side of the road. There they waited for about an hour for help. Finally, a police car pulled over.

The officer asked them what their problem was. After hearing their explanation, the officer looked into the car and saw a book called “Taliban” by Ahmad Rashid. Aksoy said the officer then treated the two with extreme suspicion.

“I hope and pray to God that this will be temporary,” Aksoy said.

After the discussion, many people gathered into groups to express their opinions on the subject and their reactions to the speakers.

“I am very happy that the Islamic community is helping to further understanding between religious groups,” Paddy Driscoll, a Pitt freshman, said. “I’m glad I came.”