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Here is the responce to Rev. Jerry Vines' comments on Islam at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis by Shakur A. Bolden President of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

Thank you to Andy Johnson for bringing this to my attention.

2333 St. John's Bluff Road South
Jacksonville, FL 32246
Phone: 904-646-3462
Fax: 904-646-9044

June 13, 2002

Rev. Jerry Vines
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church of Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Florida

Dear Rev. Vines,

We, the Muslim community in Jacksonville, are most offended and disturbed by your remarks at the Pastor's Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention in St.Louis, Missouri on June 10, 2002.

I would like to meet with you, along with a Muslim scholar, so that we may discuss, in a spirit of brotherly love, your deeply troubling statements. The sole purpose of my seeking a meeting with you is to create a better understanding among the religious leadership as well as among the people of our religious traditions. We can meet at your office or at the Islamic Center, whichever place is convenient for you.

In the meantime, I would like to share the following thoughts with you and my fellow citizens of Jacksonville, to correct your misunderstanding of Islam and Prophet Muhammad:

1.       Translation of Verse 13 Chapter 49 of The Holy Qur'an reads: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you may despise each other). Indeed the most honorable of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you." And then in Verse 125 Chapter 16 of The Qur'an, God Almighty advises us: "Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, And who receive guidance."

2.       Christians in the Arab World (and there are many) use the word "Allah" to refer to the God Almighty.

3.       Your implication that Muslims pray to a different God is absolutely incorrect - the Qur'an repeatedly refers to Muslims, Christians and Jews as the People of the Book who pray to the same God.

Rev. Jerry Vines
June 13, 2002
Page 2

4.       We are particularly troubled with your attack on Prophet Muhammad, as "demon-possessed". It is one thing to get into a discussion of differences between Islam and Christianity - it is completely different to use hate filled rhetoric to demonize a religion and its leader. What is even more troubling - based upon the applause you received at the convention, and based on the support from other leaders of your church at the convention - that how many Southern Baptists have these incorrect and bigoted beliefs. People of conscience should never tolerate this type of hate filled rhetoric - because it divides the community. The Encyclopedia Britannica calls Prophet Muhammad "the most successful of all religious personalities of the world." Sir Bernard Shaw said, "If Muhammad were alive today, he would succeed in solving all those problems which threaten to destroy human civilization in our times." He continued to say, "Muhammad was by far the most remarkable man that ever set foot on this earth. He preached a religion, founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated numerous social and political reforms including women's rights, established a powerful and dynamic society to practice and represent his teachings, and completely revolutionized the worlds of human thought and behavior for all times to come." Hardly the work of a "demon-possessed" human being.

5.       Many of the prophets mentioned in the Holy Bible are said to have had many wives. That was the norm in those days. Looking at our common ancient history while wearing the 21st Century glasses serves no purpose. (Bible References: 1 Kings 11: 1-5; Genesis 25:6, 36:2-4; Judges 8:30-31; 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 3:1-3; 2 Chronicles 11:21, 13:21, and others.)

6.       You also accused Prophet Muhammad of being a "pedophile". According to the most authentic sources of history, the Prophet Muhammad's youngest wife was 16 at the time of their religious marriage, and was 19 at the time she became a wife and the marriage was consummated. It was quite common then (1,400 years ago), and is still common in certain countries to have a simple religious ceremony - similar to an engagement ceremony - a few years prior to the final ceremony and consummation of the marriage.

7.       We as Americans are just as concerned about the safety of our country, and of our fellow citizens as people of any other faith. Anyone who hurts or terrorizes innocent human beings, or causes damage to their property is not a follower of the teachings of any of the prophets of God. It's been said, "Judge me by the tenants of my faith, but don't judge my faith by my actions." Horrific tragedies like the Holocaust, Ethnic Cleansing and others, resulted from the hatred created by leaders of one segment of a community against another. Muslims have had their share of bad apples, just like those who profess to follow other great prophets of God but commit horrible crimes. Their actions were no more sanctioned by the teachings of those prophets, than any of the evil acts of those who may call themselves Muslims is sanctioned by the teachings of Islam - Islam does not allow killing or hurting of innocent human beings or causing damage to their property under any circumstances, and for any cause whatsoever.

Rev. Jerry Vines
June 13, 2002
Page 3

8.       Let me share with you the fact that whenever an evil act to intentionally harm innocent humans takes place, and the perpetrator calls himself a Muslim, the Muslims suffer three ways: firstly as human beings they share the pain experienced by the innocent victims; secondly, they feel the pain because the perpetrator has brought shame to Islam and Muslims; and thirdly, the Muslims, their families, their homes, and their places of worship become targets of those whose sensibilities have been hurt by the evil act.

9.       Commenting upon your remarks, Omar Ahmad, Chairman of the Board of The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said, "This type of deeply offensive, bigoted and inaccurate rhetoric hands a victory to those who wish to drive a wedge between Muslims, Christians and Jews." We wholeheartedly agree with a recent statement by Rabbi Allen Krause of Temple Beth El in Aliso Viejo, California, when he said, "This world will never be as nice as it can be until religion no longer is used for hate and to divide human beings from each other."

10.       Let me close this letter with some thing that Prophet Muhammad said to his followers. He said, "You will see after me discrimination and observe things which you will disapprove of." They submitted, "What do you order us to do?" The Prophet replied, " Discharge your obligations and ask your rights from God".

I would look forward to hearing from you in regard to our meeting.
Shakur A. Bolden
Islamic Center of Northeast Florida