A campus lecture quickly turned heated before ultimately becoming an open discussion at the Taylorsville Redwood campus last Wednesday. Ghulam Hasnain, a Salt Lake area Muslim, spoke about the principles of his religion in an effort to promote better understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.
Upon taking the stage, Hasnain announced that his talk was not a lecture, it was a discussion and he welcomed comments and encouraged participation. A man in the back of the audience took Hasnain’s invitation as his moment to speak up, and he began reading from prepared notes that voiced strong opinions about the principles of Islam. Claiming to be a former Muslim himself, the man attacked Islam’s attitude towards converts, and even declared it a false religion. Clearly not intending to allow Hasnain a chance to respond, the man was eventually escorted out of the auditorium and things became civil again.
Returning to the discussion, Hasnain began speaking on the lifestyle choices associated with Islam, focusing on aspects such as behavior, hygiene, and gender identity. While these were generally referred to as “choices” and “guidelines,” Hasnain made it clear that they were strongly encouraged.
Early in the talk, Hasnain made it a point to state that many of the seemingly restrictive lifestyle guidelines of Islam were actually grounded in common sense. Conceding that to a certain extent, Islam lends itself to an oppressive lifestyle, Hasnain told the audience that, “There’s much more than physical freedom.”
When asked about the severity associated with the religion, Hasnain claimed that there are many different approaches to Islam, but that it is taken very seriously around the world, and that trying to leave the religion was not looked upon well. Religion is one’s spiritual foundation, Hasnain claimed, “It is not a game,” leaving Islam can even lead to death, but there is some flexibility within Islam’s guidelines, and as there are different interpretations of the religion, there is no blanket policy.
Speaking to an audience that was clearly engaged by the subject material, Hasnain tried to make it clear that many of the concerns surrounding Islam weren’t as simple as we would like to think, and there were many complex issues at work.
Hasnain spend a sizeable portion of his talk defending the religion against those who ruin its reputation in the eyes of the world. With over 50 countries that are primarily Islamic, Hasnain points to how many interpretations of the religion there are, and that the only true interpretation is found in the Qur’an. “Islam is a vast religion with a lot of depth to it,” Hasnain told the audience, hoping to make it clear how many different ways there are to express one’s beliefs. Hasnain added that although Islam seems to be associated with oppressive governments, Islam lends itself to democracy rather than totalitarianism. Despite Islam’s prominence in the world, Hasnain claimed that it isn’t a uniting factor among nations, and that countries have yet to unite under its banner.