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join the discussion: Can Islam adapt to the modern world? Are new interpretations of Islam challenging the true nature of the faith?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Before I decided to post my own thoughts, I read some of what other people had to say. Words cannot express the utter disgust, anger, and disappointment that I felt after reading some of the uneducated, unfounded, and intolerant comments made by some of the viewers. I had to ask myself, "Were they watching the same program that I watched?"

First, I would like to say that although the title lacked creativity, the program itself was EXCELLENT. I even watched it twice, along with the program [ NOT a FRTONLINE program] entitled "Muhammad: Legacy of the Prophet.

What I enjoyed most was the diversity presented. It is SO IMPORTANT to understand that Muslims come in all colors and from all backgrounds, and that this is what affects the way that Islam is interpreted and embodied in daily life. It is CULTURE that arouses differences between us, NOT ISLAM. Islam is and has always remained the same.

Second, I would like to address some of the viewers who feel that the program was a form of propaganda. I disagree. Since September 11th, Islam has gotten a bad rap. For those who wonder why there wasn't a program entitled "Christians" or "Jews"...well, when was the last time a Christian or a Jew was called a terrorist? Or blamed for every other tragedy that headlined in the news? Or accused of oppressing women?

It is programs like this that aid in clearing up the misconceptions that ignorant people have about Islam.

Third, some of us are ignoring the facts. I believe that one viewer said that America and Israel were fighting in "self-defense". Yeah, right. Again, if we took the time to distinguish truth from fallacy, we would learn that in fact it is America who supports some of the terrorism in the Middle East. It is America who backs Israel with money, weapons, etc., which Israel uses to kill Muslims every day. It is America who trained and supported the Afghan soldiers as "guerilla fighters" in their war with the Soviets. I could go on and on and on but, again, I think you get the point.

The bottom line is that we all need to take the time to learn about those that differ from us. We need to filter out the garbage that is fed to us by the media, the government, etc. and form more intelligent opinions of our own. Thank you, Frontline, for taking a step in that direction.

Philadelphia, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I feel the Frontline presentation entitled 'Muslims' was well presented and informative. It dealt with an important and often controversial topic with appropriate tact and sensitivity. I read the comments and while most agreed with this estimation, I'd like to address some of those that didn't, before concluding with my own remarks.

One viewer felt that mono-theistic faiths caused the majority of wars

Most wars are fought to gain power and land, but are often justified through religion. Religions are a set of ideals for people to aspire towards. Remember that all religions forbid murder and that offensive war is basically a planned series of mass-murders. Religion doesn't cause war, our own envy, greed, pride and desire lead to these conflicts.

One viewer felt that Frontline should not have spoken to designated spokespersons

To be consistant, this viewer should have asked that all media sources consult non-spokespersons, doing all interviews with only randomly chosen people. In this commentor's world there would be no radio talk show hosts, no think tanks and poor president Bush would have to face the press by himself. This viewer is either purist or prejudiced.

One viewer felt that PBS hasn't aired programs showcasing Jews or Christians

PBS has done many excellent documentaries concerning these topics.

Please see:

Heritage: Civilization and the Jews 9 hours

Frontline: From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians 4 hours

Saints and Sinners 6 hours

Old & New Testament 6 hours

One viewer felt that Frontline was spreading "tolerance propaganda" of immigrants.

America is a land built and populated by immigrants. They paid America the highest compliment that any one could give: they in essence say through their actions that they believe so strongly in the principles of America that they would like to leave the land of their birth and start over . Throughout our history, men and women have come to this nation to escape religious persecution and secure this precious freedom. America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, human rights invented America.

2 viewers were concerned that the Quranic verse 9:5 is intolerant

If these viewers would read the verses directly above and below 9:5 they would notice that only those that oppress are to be attacked. The Quran encourages tolerance in many verses "if they incline to peace, you also incline to it" Quran 8:61 "God loves not the agressor" Quran 2:190 "those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord" Quran 2:62 "There is no compulsion in religion, the Truth stands clear from falsehood" Quran 2:256 "To you your religion, and to me my religion" Quran 109:6 The Quran tells Muslims that all faiths worship the same Lord, "say 'We believe in

that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our God and your God is One" Quran 29:46

Max S
NY, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

With great interest I watched both PBS specials on Islam. I had one personal mystery that was, however, unfortunately never quite answered.

When Muslims embark upon the Hajj to Mecca, the custome is to circle the Kabah I think it is named seven times. According to the "Muhammad, Legacy of a Prophet" program, the BLANK actually predated Mohammed as a temple for so-called pagans. This struck me as odd. As a regular Internet reader I was under the impression that the Kabah contained a meteorite that was witnessed by the prophet and dealt with one of his more startling visions. Of course if the temple predated him this could not be possible.

I want to know what's in there. Let's just say I'm curious. Due to poor bandwidth I can't take the Virtual Hajj. Is there a meteorite or something else? Why no pictures?

I'd also like to know the problems Muslims have with pork, dogs, alcohol and hashish, even though all seem quite common in the Muslim world? Does anyone know? All of these questions are puzzling. Allah made all things, why are some considered dirty and unclean?

Humans all have interesting concepts in their perspective cultures. I ask Catholics why they feel God would punish those for actions such as eating beef on Fridays, or Mormons for denouncing the use of caffeine. I feel at times God, such that It is, has spoken to me and has pointed out in utter clarity chemistry is Its creation. I see few distinctions between pork, beef, chicken, fish and vegetables for instance.

So, what's in the Kabah and what's the aversion towards pork? These questions were not answered. At least God-Allah-Vishnu-Buddha-Dude gave me the Internet, through brilliant humanity, so that I may find the answer.

Curt King
Sacramento, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

'Muslims' was a thoughtful look into the experiences facing Muslims today both in the U.S. and abroad. I have heard and read comments about "when will there be shows about..." but this is something that with the events of 9/11 and even before that the public needs to know more about this religion.

Thoughtlessly "squashing" a group's belief is not the answer--it certainly wasn't when the Christian church kept itself alive by separating into different sects and finding ways to keep up with the modern world.

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, of Scandinavian/Eastern Europe descent. I was raised as a Lutheran, I have reverted to Islam in the past year. I have made an extra effort not to be influenced by others at the masjid who incorporate their culture into the religion. We can keep the traditions of our ancestors and also be able to have our religious beliefs intact. It is also possible to live side by side with others of different beliefs.

This country was founded on a revolution to break away from a empire so that anyone who came here had the freedom of religion and all the other freedoms granted to us. Now it seems like all seen and heard is the negative aspects of Muslims, often Muslims who are misguided--there are good and evil in every religion.

Cindi Fayaz
New Haven, CT

Dear FRONTLINE,

As someone raised in America with the values of equality and religious tolerance, I'm glad to have had the opportunity to have more understanding of Islam. From everything I saw, I would want to have more Muslim neighbors.

All religions have good points and all can be misinterpreted and misused by human beings.

Love and caring is the universal need of all people. Forget race, color, country, religion, etc. Just be neighbors and treat everyone NICE.

Phoenix, Arizona

Dear FRONTLINE,

Islam is not a part of or like the Christian Faith. Why do you guys always want to water down God. The God of the Christians is not the same as the demon god allah. You know that, at least if you would have done your basic research.

PBS is Anti God just like Islam is anti God.

Maybe when they have Jihad not your ignorant definitionon someone you love you will repent of your false story of Islam. It is evil to lead people astray.

Michael Ross
Milford, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

My hat is off to all those at PBS who worked so hard to bring forward this educational program that attempts at bridging the gap. As I read all the responses, I hear voices of many who are scared of the mere thought that Islam may not be as bad as they always perceived it to be. Your program is a threat to those who don't have it in their heart to want to bridge the gap.

You have done your part through the GREAT series of shows on Islam, and now it is the DUTY of Muslims around the world to walk the walk and prove that Islam is a religion of tolerance. We as moderate muslims must raise our voices in the face of those extremists who are hijacking this beautiful religion to extend their political agendas.

Throughout history and to this date Islam has spread through the good examples of muslims, NOT by the sword.

Open hearts, open minds, lead to a better world.

B R
Alpharetta, GA, USA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for making this documentary -- for it actually shows multi-faceted sides of Islam that are not often viewed by the West. In addition, it allowed a diversity of Muslims to tell their own story, as opposed to covering it with the opinions of self-proclaimed experts.

Thank you so much for showing a well-educated and informed view of Islam.

Ann Arbor, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think this program was excellent representation of Islam,

I think right now we need these kind of program more than ever before because some political elements arround the globe are giving wrong concept of Islam to achive there evil targets.

Muslimus, cristians and jewish, they all pray for same GOD,

than why to fight on religion, fight aginst poverty, Injustice ....

Taufique Yousuf
neward, delaware

Dear FRONTLINE,

I believe that Islam, just like any world religion, is and will continue to adapt to the modern world. Yes, this will take time, but the people on the Frontline program gives us all hope.

As a woman, there are changes that are being made as I type that are vital. I feel the changes that are made for Islamic women will help the religion to grow. This is not to ignore the obvious abuse the religion is taking from the radicals who would have the world believe that is their job to cleanse the world by any means of what they deem incorrect. This is not new, however. Just a few years ago the were slaves owners who twisted the Bible to convince their slaves that it was the slave's duty to serve. Also, the missionaries who went to China and other Asian countries to "save the blind pagan masses".

With tolerance and understanding this new and more aggressive imperalism will also be stopped.

Natisha Knight
Chesapeake, Virginia

Dear FRONTLINE,

I do thank you for your efforts on this program. However, there have been many aspects of the show that other muslims besides myself have found quite disturbing. We feel that a stronger group of well versed in Islamic studies individuals could have acted as better representatives of the religion.

For example, the young lady from NY made some honest efforts, while at the same token, gave false answers to some misconceptions about muslims, especially muslim women and Hijab. It is described in the Holy Quran what is required by the woman as far as head dress and overall clothing of the self.

Iman EL-Rayess
Jersey City, New Jersey

Dear FRONTLINE,

Bravo to Frontline. Once again Public Broadcasting has made a significant contribution to fostering understanding between cultures and religions--more important now than ever.

As an American Jew I have experienced a combination of fear, anger and finally, I now believe a misconception of what Islam as a faith and Muslims as both a culture and religious people are about. I have come away from this program seeing that we have more in common between the Koran and The Torah than we have differences. That the Spirit of Islam and the Spirit of Judism are much the same. There is room and there is need for this spirit--here in the United States and around the world.

I could particularly relate to the profile of Yasemin Saib. Although I am many years older than Yasemin now, I moved to North Carolina twelve years ago from California where their was a prolific Jewish Culture and population. When I came to Greensboro, North Carolina, I felt like the proverbial "stranger in a strange land." Over time however, as Yasemin is educating her fellow New Yorkers about her faith and about their misconceptions of her faith, I, along with a vibrant Jewish Community and Rabbi was able to educate our neighbors about Judiasm. There is also a good size Muslim population here.

I think our two faiths could use more dialoge to help foster our understanding of one another in the context of the culture we both live in. Do you know if there is a group such as Yasemin's here in North Carolina and how one would get in touch with them? I'd like to invite them to speak at our Temple.

How can I get in touch with her group?

A grateful and loyal viewer.

Marlene Goland
Greensboro, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

The program, which was advertised as a documentary on Islam, turned out to be pure fluff. It presented Islam in such superlative and glowing terms that Islamic proselytizers could hardly have produced a more positive depiction of their religion.

A more realistic approach may have mentioned the fact that in many lands where Islam dominates, other beliefs are harshly repressed.

I believe that those "infidels" as Islam refers to themwho are persecuted for their refusal to convert, would pointedly disagree with the tone of your program.

Clearly, Muslims should be treated with the full respect that their humanity commands. That does not mean though, that the ills clearly associated with Islam should be ignored or glossed over. Nor it is the function of PBS to create propaganda pieces which beatifically promote a particular religious viewpoint. I would urge PBS to retain an objective approach when producing documentaries on religious viewpoints. Failing that, they should at least offer equal time for proponents of other religions.

Daryl Blanksma
manhattan, MT

Dear FRONTLINE,

I always appreciate Frontline - all the more so as a bit of a corrective to what in my view was last night's unabashedly unbalanced propoganda Muhammed:Legacy of a Prophet.

I have recently discovered the excellent historical writings of Bat Ye'or and frankly would love to see a more broad treatment of history in future Frontlines such as she portrays in 'The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude' and other writings.

As a Christian who has always wondered about the horrors of the Crusades, and as a modern American frankly puzzled and shocked by the horrors of Bosnia, at least it gives some perspective - not justification, but perspective.

As to the many responders who take issue with the notion of Islam/Christians/Jews worshiping the 'One God' I think it might be instructive to remember that, at it's root, we all look to Abram as our faith 'father' - Abram who inherited the promise, who was 'counted righteous' by his faith, whose son Issac was promised to become a great nation and who also prefigured the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sins, whose step son Ishmael was also promised a nation 12 tribes and protection by God. read Genesis 17:20

Those who fail to understand this and fight against Jews, Christians, or Muslims fight against the very God who pledged to care for and sustain all of Abraham's children. That this God uses each of these offspring in ways to challenge and in some cases chastise one another should surely humble us in our hearts to turn to Him and seek guidance and forgiveness through the sacrifice for sin once and for all by His Son Jesus.

Those who mistakenly think the 'mighty US' can solve all it's problems by 'wiping Muslims from the face of the earth' or conversely that Islam can 'conquer the infidels once and for all' have no idea what they are playing with - the Almighty God who created Heaven and Earth who will not be mocked. May God forgive our ignorance and open our eyes to His truth.

Rich Parker

Richmond, VT

Rich Parker
Richmond, Vermont

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer who lived in Muslim sub Sahara Africa for three years, I observed that the rural Muslim villagers I lived with were more Christian-like than I was and probably am even as a practicing Roman Catholic. The daily adherents of the religion practiced hospitality and mutual respect, not without omissions, but overall it was probably the safest place I have ever lived. I have studied, fasted, and still respect the daily Islam of the villagers I lived and worked with.

The extreme Islam of the terrorists does not match my personal observations, but neither do sinful priests or Christian evangelicals who spread fire and damnation to all non-Christians. A major problem within the Muslim community of America however is the issue of whether believers see themselves as Muslim-Americans or American Muslims. I see myself as a Catholic American with a workable separation between church and state; an American political cultural characteristic. Islam is without a tradition of separation between religion and state, and therefore questions of allegiance and loyalty will continue to exist until a degree of assimilation to American political culture can occur, if possible.

In a time of active domestic terrorism, the American concern about loyalty to state will persist, and until Muslims living in America can answer these concerns, an honest debate about where the Muslim community belongs will continue. JFK had to answer the issue of allegiance to Rome or the Constitution with a simultaneous answer; so will the Muslims in the United States, plus the ability to persuade fellow Americans of this loyalty.

Eventually, we will all have to choose what is compatible between spirituality and political reality; I pray that a workable choice can be reached by Muslim Americans.

pat smith
annandale, va

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