“Go to the source: If you want to know about Islam, talk to a Muslim,” said Imam Dawud Walid Friday evening, speaking at the University of the Virgin Islands.

The Islamic cleric spoke for more than 90 minutes in a wide-ranging discussion and question-and-answer session on the nature of his religion. “If you want to learn, go to the Muslim community right here in St. Thomas.”

Walid, 35, encouraged people to engage with Muslims, to ask questions of each other: “If you wanted to learn about Hinduism, you wouldn’t go to a Muslim, would you? Don’t let people like Pat Robertson explain or define Islam to you.”

When questioned about the role of women in Islam, he smiled and deferred to the Muslim women in the room. “They are not oppressed, and they can certainly speak their minds,” he said. “They can talk about it themselves.” . . .

A Navy veteran, Walid served in Bosnia, where he worked with the Muslim population. He also visited Haifa, where he observed the lives of Palestinians. “I agree with 85 percent of what Jimmy Carter said in his latest book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” Walid said. “I got the book the first day it came out. I don’t know what else you can call it. It is just like apartheid.”

Walid is considered a leading voice for American Muslims and serves as executive director of the Council On American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national civil-rights organization. His knowledge of Islamic history is extensive, and he was able to give perspective to historical events ranging from the Moorish rule of Spain to the Holocaust and the current situation in the Middle East.


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