Origins: ? The piece quoted above (“Allah or Jesus?”) is an editorial penned by Rick Mathes, Executive Director of the Mission Gate Prison Ministry.
We asked Mr. Mathes if he could provide some information about the origins of the piece, and he responded:
This article is an exact recording of a real event that I participated in. My only commentary was, “the truth will prevail.” I think this meeting was in May 2003 and I will not give out more details for fear of retribution. The purpose of the class was to increase “religious sensitivity”, that is, tolerance for each others beliefs and I really blew that. The director was purple with rage however the Imam and I exchanged signs and said “Salaam” which means “peace” in Arabic (I hope). I questioned him (Imam) really to get a clear refutation of what is commonly thought of this Jihad nonsense. But apparently he wasn’t educated enough to rebut my remarks or by his silence on this matter (I think) concurred with my implied conclusions. In either case I was surprised. And when I said I found it hard to be his friend, everyone laughed out loud. So the mood was an amazing mix of those who were interested like me and others that were just amused by the whole thing. I left the matter open on purpose (the truth will prevail) so that either side could speak up and claim the truth as their own.
Reporter Greg Kearney, writing for the Lee News Service, traced the story to a correctional facility in Fulton, Missouri, and came away with a decidedly different version of events from Missouri state officials.
According to Tim Kniest, Public Information Officer for the Missouri Department of Corrections, the event described was a training program for prison volunteers, for which ministers from several faiths were invited to give presentations in order to acquaint prison volunteers with the varied religious beliefs of the inmate population. The man who gave the presentation about Islam was not a Muslim minister; he was an inmate pressed into service to present a short film on Islam and answer some questions when the prison’s Volunteer Coordinator was “unable to find an Imam to speak.”
Moreover, reported Mr. Kniest, the prison’s Volunteer Coordinator said that “The inmate did a good job,” adding, “He was asked a few questions that were beyond his ability to answer. But he was not asked anything like that question [in the editorial]”:
. . . the Volunteer Coordinator at the prison said that no such exchange as the editorial reported ever took place. “He certainly did not ‘Hang his head in shame’,” according to Kniest. In fact, the inmate was thanked by the assembly before being escorted back to his quarters. Furthermore, the coordinator does not recall any questions dealing with jihad [Holy war] against the infidels of the world as reported in the editorial.
In the editorial the inmate is presented as an Imam, or Islamic minister, which he clearly was not.
Whatever may have transpired at the prison training session referred to above, the notion expressed by this piece is inaccurate. Islam is not a monolithic religion in which unanimity of belief and action is coordinated from a central authority. Islam has an estimated two billion adherents in countries all over the world who belong to any one of a number of different sects with varying beliefs, traditions, and interpretations of scripture. (As well, some religious groups identify themselves as Islamic but are not recognized as such by the vast majority of Muslims.) No one Muslim (especially one who wasn’t even a cleric) could speak to what all of Islam believes, any more than a single member of a Methodist congregation could speak for every denomination and follower of Christianity. Many, many Muslims reject the idea that “all followers of Allah have been commanded to kill everyone who is not of their faith,” or even the suggestion that such an interpretation has ever been a valid tenet of Islam. We sent this piece to several Muslim groups and invited them to offer comments; they provided somewhat different explanations about the concept of jihad, how Muslims regard non-Muslims, and other related topics, but they all agreed that the editorial presented a grossly distorted version of their beliefs.
Last updated: ? 13 January 2004
The URL for this page is http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/allah.asp
Urban Legends Reference Pages ? 1995-2004
by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
This material may not be reproduced without permission
? ? Kearney, Greg. ? “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.”
? ? Lee News Service. ? 13 January 2004.