Portland State hosted a panel of six students from different religious backgrounds titled “Unpacking Misconceptions” on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 in the basement of Smith Memorial Student Union. A Muslim student who organized the interfaith event and spoke on the panel said he intended it to be an opportunity to convene with people from diverse religious backgrounds, humanize these varying perspectives and educate one another through mutual understanding.
“On a daily basis you interact with people of different religions,” the event organizer said.* “You say hi to them, but instead of asking those people about their religions and beliefs, we rely on the media to teach us about what these people we work with believe. The interfaith event was designed to be a place to share, not debate, personal beliefs with others from different backgrounds. People have misconceptions about what other people believe, and this event was intended to be a productive place to unpack those ideas with fellow students.”
The student organizer made several remarks while on the panel, though a specific comment in response to an audience question has been widely shared on social media and later criticized by far-right media outlet Breitbart.
In spite of outside misconception, faiths unite against killing
During a question and answer portion of the event, the event organizer responded to a question.
A Christian member of the audience asked the organizer to clarify a specific part of the Quran that states killing an innocent person is like killing all of humanity. The audience member wanted to know how the organizer, a Muslim, would respond to rumors that this message refers to Muslims killing Muslims and that non-Muslims, “I suppose the term would be infidels,” were not included in the innocents mentioned.
“So, I can confidently tell you, when the Quran says an innocent life, it means an innocent life, regardless of the faith, the race, like, whatever you can think about as a characteristic,” the organizer stated. “And some, this, that you’re referring to, killing non-Muslims, that is only considered a crime when the country’s law, the country is based on Quranic law—that means there is no other law than the Quran. In that case, you’re given the liberty to leave the country, you can go in a different country, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. So you can on a different country, but in a Muslim country, in a country based on the Quranic laws, disbelieving, or being an infidel, is not allowed so you will be given the choice.”