January 11th, 2007 06:42 EST
New Jersey Youths Share Faiths
This year, the youths of New Jersey have a new resolve: to come together with open minds to learn firsthand the details of one another`s faiths. Through Project Understanding, the youth groups of Temple Shaari Emeth, St. Robert and Bellarmine Catholic Church, and the Islamic Center of Freehold share ideas and concerns about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
We are finding our common threads and appreciating one another in the process, Â" Project Understanding Coordinator Fatima Khan said. On Sunday afternoon, January 7th, the topic was Islam. About 20 students took off their shoes and sat on the floor of the main hall of the Islamic Center.
They observed a demonstration on how Muslims pray, listened to a discourse on women`s rights in Islam, and asked some controversial questions about the religion at the end of the program. Hassan Sheikh, a 19-year-old member of the Islamic Center, showed the audience how Muslims wash up before prayer. He read the call to prayer and proceeded with the steps of bowing and prostrating. The prayer ended with a plea for peace and blessings.
According to Khan, Islam uplifted the status of woman and brought her many privileges. The religion bases superiority on who is most God-fearing and pious; it does not base superiority on gender. She mentioned that Eve was not solely to blame for the original sin; Adam was equally culpable.
A Muslim woman has a right to seek employment and her income cannot be demanded by her husband, Â" Khan said. After the speech, youths and adults satisfied their curiosity about Islam with a variety of questions. Khan responded with Islam`s take on gay marriage, alcohol, the veil, dietary laws, contraception, abortion, and arranged marriages.
Sarah Strasser, President of the Youth of Shaari Emeth, found it surprising that men and women in Islam are considered equal. In other religions it`s not like that, Â" she said. Samantha Bass, a Jewish 17-year-old from Marlboro, stated: I feel my religion is a lot more liberal in certain issues like abortion and being able to choose. Â"
Hassan Sheikh enjoyed being able to connect with the People of the Book Â", i.e. Jews and Christians. Project Understanding, a product of the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, is also a charitable organization with various activities that aid the less fortunate.
Note: This article was originally contributed by a writer who is no longer affiliated with theSOP.