Learning about Islam

At the May 11 meeting, Rotarian Vic Benetti introduced John Emery of the Islamic Resource Group. Emery completed intensive study of the Arabic language in the U.S. Army. He served as a translator and interrogator for nine years, including service in the United States, North Africa, Persian Gulf, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After his honorable discharge, John received his Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies at the University of Minnesota. As an American convert to Islam, John is concerned with common misconceptions about Muslims and Islam in the United States. John is passionate about dispelling misunderstandings and shedding light on the values shared by believers of all faith traditions. John lives and works in Chaska. When he is not busy with family, he is a beekeeper and bicyclist.

John explained the basis tenets of the religion. Islam has many parallels with Judaism and Christianity and it is the third of the three “Abrahamic” religions. Abraham’s covenant with one God (monotheism) is the common basis for all three religions. The common greeting is “As-salamu-alaykum” or “peace be with you. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world which is a fourth of the world population. The country with the largest population of Muslims is Indonesia with 220 million. The religion is based on these covenants: 1) Peace through submission to God, 2) Islam as a way of life, and 3) Belief in the new and old testament of the Bible.

John continued by explaining that Islam began in Saudi Arabia and spread across the world via trade routes. Islam came to the United States as part of the slave trade in the the 18th and 19th centuries. There are a growing number of Muslims in the United States, Minnesota has about 150,000, the second largest population in the country. Islam has certain areas of discipline within its religion. Muslims are not allowed to eat pork nor drink alcohol and are expected to maintain a respectful dress code. They believe Jesus was a prophet, not the son of God. They are required to pray five times a day and on certain days they must fast 16 hours. Islam requires one to provide 2.5 percent of their net worth each year to support the religion and charitable works. If you are poor, then nothing is required. The Five Pillars that describe Islam are: declaration of faith, prayer, charity, fasting and a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.