Nonprofit director discusses Islam misconceptions

Itzzy Leon International Reporter


The executive director of a nonprofit organization discussed the misunderstanding of Islam and Muslims in the U.S. and about the Syrian crisis, on Tuesday afternoon at the University Library.

The nonprofit Niagara Foundation promotes peace, dialogue and diversity.

Murat Gurer,the director of the nonprofit, talked to a special topics class called Applied Outreach and Global Understandings in Gender and Sexuality. The course is taught by Molly Merryman, director of LGBTQ and Women’s Studies and director of Developing the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.

One of the misunderstandings Gurer spoke of, were common misunderstandings of Muslims and the Islamic faith.

Gurer said Islam, which means “peace” and “submission,” and Muslims are the people who submit or surrender their will to their god, Allah.

Gurer spoke about the principles of faith in Islam and the Five Pillars of Islam.

The Five Pillars are things you must do in order to be true to the religion. The pillars include the declaration of faith, praying five times a day (morning, noon, afternoon, evening and at night before going to bed), purification of wealth, fasting and pilgrimage.

“The question I always get from our friends is, ‘Isn’t that an inconvenience?’” Gurer said.

Gurer used an analogy to help explain Islam and why praying five times a day is not an inconvenience to Muslims.

“There’s an analogy, it says: Somebody comes to you and gives you $24 or 24 (pieces of) gold and then, if that person asks you for one of them back, would you give it back? … God gives you 24 hours of the day and then he’s asking for only one hour of that time,” he said.

Gurer discussed women in Islam and the way they are actually treated as opposed to how people think they’re treated.

“The women in Islam are very highly regarded,” he said. “The best of you are they who behave best to their wives.” 

Gurer then explained the history behind jihad and its meaning now.

“Jihad has nothing to do with war (now). Jihad was war back in that time, the 7th century, the content was defending and fighting against whoever was trying to fight you,” he said. “The jihad in this century, in this time, is the struggle that you have within you.”

Gurer said ISIS and the people causing terror are not doing it for religion because that is not what his religion is about.

“Those people at the top do not represent those people at the bottom,” he said.

Gurer wants people to know Muslims are peaceful, but their voices are not strong enough to get their message across.

“Our voice is not strong unfortunately, we are just a minority in this country and in other countries,” Gurer said.

He spoke about the Syrian crisis and showed the class photos of refuges and the horrible conditions they face.

“Refugee camps are like concentration camps, I’m sorry to put it that way but they are. It’s all guarded. People are just living there,” he said. “They’re not allowed to leave certain times, certain hours. But guess what happens? They leave and they don’t come back.”

Refugees leave these camps to find a better living situation for their families and themselves, said Gurer.

“They are asking for a decent living because the regime in Syria is cruel,” he said.

Gurer said if anyone wants to help they can visit the Niagara Foundation or their sister organization, Embrace Relief.

“Muslims, they’re Americans, they are part of this country,” he said.