‘Islam in America’ focus of Harding seminar featuring Muslim leader
Part of the L.C. Sears Collegiate Seminar Series, the program in the American Heritage Auditorium was designed to foster a better understanding between Muslims and Christians.
More than 400 students, faculty and members of the Searcy community listened to a presentation from Nabil Bayakly of Memphis, Tenn., and later heard a conversation between him and Harding’s Monte Cox.
“In recent years, Islam in America has become the focus of much attention and unease,” said Sky Vanderburg, assistant student director of the series. “We wanted to further dialogue between Muslims and Christians with this seminar.”
Bayakly, director of the AnNoor Community Center, meeting place of the Muslim Student Association of Memphis, opened the discussion.
He presented a history of Islam in America, discussed some implications of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and showed examples of Muslims’ contributions to science.
Cox, associate dean of the College of Bible and Religion and director of the Center for World Missions at Harding, took the floor next.
He pointed out some commonalities of Islam and Christianity: the Creator entity known as God to Christians and Allah to Muslims, a belief in revelation from the Creator and a commitment to obedience of that revelation.
He followed up with his thoughts about religious and political disagreements among Christians and Muslims. Prior to speaking, Cox emphasized his longstanding, amicable relationship with Bayakly, one that formed over the years he has taken students to visit Bayakly’s mosque in Memphis.
“I know Nabil would like nothing more than for me to say that Allah is the one true God, and Muhammad is his prophet,” Cox said. “And he knows that I would like nothing more than to convince him that Jesus Christ is the son of God and to baptize him.”
With mutual understanding in mind, Bayakly answered a receptive audience’s questions on topics ranging from Islamic nations’ treatment of women to the differences in Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
Andy Frazier, a senior Bible and religion major from Oshkosh, Wis., and a former student in Cox’s comparative religions class, wanted to hear about Islam firsthand at the seminar.
“I went to high school with Muslims but haven’t had many chances to interact with them since college,” Frazier said. “We don’t hear very often from a Muslim perspective, so I wanted to hear their thoughts on Christianity.”
Born in Ghana, West Africa, Bayakly serves as an instructor of Arabic at the University of Memphis and an adjunct professor of biology at Le Moyne Owen College.
He has published numerous works on both science and religion and travels to universities throughout the nation lecturing on Islam. He has spent much of his life working to correct misconceptions of Islam while promoting mutual understanding between faiths.
Cox spent nearly 10 years as a missionary in Kenya before joining the Harding faculty in 1993.
Each year he leads students from his “Living World Religions” class to Chicago and Dallas to engage in conversation with those of other faiths.
The L.C. Sears Collegiate Seminar Series hosts a variety of seminars throughout the school year designed to stimulate discussion of timely issues.
Feedback“I know Nabil would like nothing more than for me to say that Allah is the one true God and Muhammad is his prophet, and he knows I would like to convince him that Jesus Christ is the son of God and to baptize him.” Monte Cox has to convince Nabil that Jesus is the son of God? Is it his fault Nabil will not be saved? I thought that was the Holy Spirit working. For too long preachers have taken credit for converting people.
Research shows, 95% of the people, in America, who become what they call Christian do so before 25-years-of-age. The fact of the matter is the Gospel has little effect on people older that, in America. The question is why?John Jenkinsn /aGatlinburg, TN
USAOctober, 6 2012