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Basic points about Arabs, Muslims

9/12/2001 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: This is a sidebar to UMNS story # 383.

By United Methodist News Service

With Osama bin Laden emerging as a leading suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America, understanding some key points about Islam and the Middle East becomes increasingly important.

Muslims are followers of Islam, one of the three Abrahamic faiths, along with Christianity and Judaism. Islam has members around the world and, like Christianity, most of its members are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who worship the one God. Also, as with Christianity and other faith traditions throughout history, its teachings have been used by some people to justify violence.

The largest Islamic country in the world is Indonesia, notes the Rev. Bruce Robbins, top staff executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. "It's very important to realize that not all Muslims are Arabic."

Arabs are a Semitic people most highly concentrated in the Middle East but also extending beyond that region. They have influenced the development of Western and Eastern civilization profoundly throughout history, in diverse areas such as the sciences and the arts. Not all Arabs are Muslims, just as not all European Americans or African Americans are Christians.

"The recognition of the way the United States is becoming increasingly diverse and multi-religious requires us to do all that we can to learn about each other's faith traditions and not stereotype and make assumptions based on the actions of a few terrorists or violent people," Robbins said.
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