Broadening Understanding About Islam

Broadening Understanding About Islam

Nonviolent uprisings in several countries of the Middle East and North Africa, a movement many call the “Arab Spring,” have captured the world’s attention. To Amitabh Pal, author and managing editor of The Progressive magazine, who spoke Thursday at UCF, the roots of those uprisings also help to illustrate the “rich tradition of nonviolence” in Islam.

Of course, as Pal acknowledged to an audience of about 100, that is not the prevalent perception among non-Muslims, who often see Islam as a religion largely spread and defined by violence – a notion made worse by the tragedy of 9/11. Drawing from his new book, “Islam Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today,” Pal recommended re-examining the sources of Islam, such as the Quran, to find nonviolent elements.

As part of his presentation, Pal sought to clarify the meaning of certain terms such as jihad, which he described as often misunderstood. “Jihad does not mean war, bloodshed, violence or attack; rather, it means struggle, both internal and external,” he said.

When asked why he, a Hindu native of India, chose to write a book sorting through the confusion and misperceptions about Islam, Pal pointed out that the connection was natural. “A Pashtun friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, founded a movement dedicated to nonviolence and social reform,” he said. Pal also spent most of his childhood in an environment where Hindus and Muslims lived and worked together.

The event was a feature of the Al Ghazali Islamic Studies Program, housed in the UCF Global Perspectives Office, in partnership with the UCF College of Arts & Humanities. It was also part of two 2012 themes, “People Power, Politics and Global Change” and “Covering Global Crises from the Frontlines,” as well as the “India Speaker Series.”

Other sponsors and partners included the UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF Diplomacy Program, The India Program at UCF, the UCF Nicholson School of Communication, the UCF Book Festival 2012 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center, the UCF International Services Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.