About 85 people came to the Morton Grove library on a recent evening to learn more about Islam. A question written on a card for the Muslim panelists got to the heart of misunderstandings that the event was designed to address.
"Where are the cries of outrage over terrorist attacks?" it asked.
"Do we not assume that we're repulsed by it?" said panelist Omer Mozaffar, a lecturer at the University of Chicago in the Asian Classics program at the Graham School.
"Any human is repulsed not only by the taking of lives but of the threatening of lives," he added. "We would say we condemn it, but it would not be in the news. What would make the news is if we said, 'Death to America.'"
Mozaffar mentioned the 1994 murder of 29 Muslims and the wounding of 125 others when American-born Baruch Goldstein opened fire at the Mosque of Abraham in Palestine. After the attack, two rabbis came to the mosque to apologize. Mozaffar said that wasn't necessary because the community already understood the horror felt by people of all faiths.
The Morton Grove forum was organized to foster cross-cultural communication. It comes in the wake of an incident in August, when a 51-year-old Morton Grove man allegedly fired a high-velocity air rifle at the Muslim Education Center.
No one was hurt during the shooting, but about 500 people were in the building observing evening prayers for the holy month of Ramadan. The man was ordered in court to undergo an anger management evaluation and to stay away from members of the center.
At the Nov. 14 forum, another question related to the Muslim Brotherhood and whether or not the organization is in the United States.
"Of course they are," said Mozaffar. "Why not? Their goal is to establish Muslim social services leading to Muslim polity. The Muslim Brotherhood is the boogeyman, and I think this is a serious problem."
The panelists also included Habeeb Quadri, principal of the MCC Full Time School in Morton Grove, which offers a curriculum of Islamic Studies, and Abeer Saleh, a science teacher and department head at the school.
Quadri presented a slideshow with "true or false" statements relating to misconceptions about the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.
For example, one statement was: "Most Muslims in the world are Arabs."
"False," said Quadri. "Only 18 percent are Arabs. The majority are from India, Pakistan. Kenya has 45 percent Muslims. China has 10 million."
Another topic panelists were asked about related to modesty.
Men and women must dress modestly, panelists explained. Women keep their heads covered and wear loose-fitting clothing. Pre-marital relations are taboo and Muslims don't eat pork, road kill, or drink alcohol or blood.
"If you don't drink or dance," one questioner asked, "what do you do at social occasions?"
"It has to be 'PPL,'" said Saleh, the science teacher. "Public, purposeful and limited."
Quadri added that girls have to be asked to be married three times and that an outside party will act as a protector to make sure that a woman is marrying of her own free will and not being forced into any union.
Another audience member asked if Muslim children say the Pledge of Allegiance at their private parochial school. Saleh said that the pledge is hung in her room.
"We say the pledge once-a-month, added Quadri. "One person might recite it, but not everyone has to say it."
Panelists noted that MCC has the same curriculum as other schools, including classes in life science, reading and math. Their students also study Islamic history and take Arabic.