Violence in the name of Islam could be stopped peacefully — through education, a Muslim leader said in Chico last week.

The solution is for all Muslims to learn the truth about Islam — that its guiding ethic is the Golden Rule, Mamadou Toure said in an interview Friday.

Toure, who comes from Senegal, in West Africa, is an imam — an Islamic clergyman. He lives in Portland, Ore., and leads a mosque there. He is also the founder of the Institute of Islamic and Interfaith Studies, which he said promotes inter-religious understanding and works to solve social problems.

Toure came to Chico because he’d been invited to be the featured speaker at the annual dinner of the Chico Area Interfaith Council Thursday.

During an interview Friday morning, Toure said his family in Senegal has long followed the Muslim faith. In fact, he described himself as “a seventh-generation” imam.

His training to be an imam began when he was 9 years old, he said. However, he wanted religion to be something more than “the family legacy.” So, after college, he went to study at the Sorbonne, in France, where he earned a master’s degree in comparative religion.

Learning Arabic and reading the Quran in its original language opened up new vistas, he said. “I was really shocked at the idea of how much trust and faith God has in us — in our ability to set the world right.”

Before he created humans, according to the Quran, God said, “I’m going to create the one who is going to be the caretaker of the earth on my behalf,” Toure said.

On delving deeper into the Muslim holy book, he said he was struck by the dominance of the message that all people are one.

Chapter 49, Verse 13 of the Quran says, “Oh, mankind, we have created you from a single pair — one male and one female,” Toure said. “All mankind — and womankind — whether you like it or not, is your brother. White as snow or black as night, you are still my brother.”

The true nature of Islam is being horribly distorted by militants like the terrorists of Sept 11, he said.

Muslims have a duty to denounce all violence, he added, noting he helped organize an interfaith rally in Portland against violence in the name of religion.

Still, it’s not hard to see the reasons for terrorism, he said, referring to what he called “the Taliban experience.”

In Afghanistan, he said, a population of young men spent a decade fighting the Soviets. When that struggle ended, they had no skills except fighting. They called themselves Muslims, but they knew little about their religion.

What happened next? Outsiders came into the country to instruct them in “ideological Islam,” Toure said. “That is what they learned, an ideology of hate and murder used by ruthless people” whose goal is world conquest.

It’s terrible, he said, that this is what they were taught, instead of “scriptural, prophetic Islam, which embraces a vision of peace and compassion.” (MORE)


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