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Islam under a cloud

A large group of people assembled at the International Conference Centre (ICCS) on Friday evening to listen to the first of a series of three talks organised by the Islamic Society of Seychelles (ISOS). The keynote speaker was Sheikh Sultan Bilal who spoke of the recent surge in terrorism and the many misconceptions surrounding the faith.

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Imam Fallah during a short recital from the Qu’ran.

“Islam under a cloud” was the theme of Friday’s talk that was aimed a dispelling certain myths and misconceptions surrounding Islam. Despite the absence of Dr Bilal Philips, the ISOS went ahead with the event and the Bahraini-born Sheikh Sultan Bilal delivered the lecture instead.

Before the lecture, guests heard a short prayer by Imam Fallah who is based at the Sheikh Muhammad bin Khalifa Al-Nahayan Mosque in Victoria. The president of the ISOS, Ibrahim Afif, spoke of the horrific manifestations of violence that took place in the French capital last week and noted that such acts are, “abhorred in Islam and completely forbidden.”

Commenting the Paris attacks, Sheikh Sultan Bilal denounced the fact that violence was being carried out against the innocent, especially women and children. “Anything related to violence is not regarded as Jihad,” he stressed.

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Sheikh Sultan Bilal delivering his lecture.

Despite this, the President of the ISOS enjoined that it is also important to, “respect each other’s values. Freedom of expression is important, but there is no such thing as absolute freedom as one person’s freedom ends where the other begins”, he said. The lecture was followed Muslims and non-Muslims alike, including the Minister of Tourism, Alain St Ange, the Archbishop Emeritus of the Anglican Church, French Chang-Him, the Leader of the Opposition, David Pierre, and Judge Durai Karunakaran.

Taking to the podium,Minister St Ange said that the visit of such prominent Islamic scholars came at an opportune moment. “The Islamic faith is once again in the limelight, but we cannot blame the entire Muslim world over the actions of a few,” noted the Minister, who added that, “ this is why these talks have come at a good time as it gives us the opportunity to better understand the religion and principles.” The Minister also commended the Seychelles Inter-Faith Council (SIFCO) for its attendance, which, he believes, is “further proof that Seychelles is indeed a land of peace and tolerance.”

Minister St Ange concluded by quoting a recent sermon by Pope Francis, noting that, “everyone has the choice and freedom to follow his faith and we cannot make a mockery of other religions. I hope that these lectures help us in gaining a deeper understanding on Islam”.

For his part, Sheikh Sultan Bilal explained that Islam is not a new creation, but rather a principle that has existed since time immemorial and a divine revelation from God almighty. Sheikh Bilal described the term “Islam” and its attributes which include submission, surrender, sincerity, obedience and peace. “Islam has no hierarchy or priesthood and everyone is considered equal in the eyes of God and he (God) has not forbidden Muslims to socialise, relate or interact with non-Muslims who are peaceful. “We are not only brothers and sister in Islam, but in humanity as well,” noted thespeaker.

Sheikh Bilal also elaborated on “jihad”, a word which he believes “is not given its due right. Jihad is often regarded as ‘the holy war,’ but how can war be holy? It is impossible. Jihad is both internal and external It is a struggle for those who thrive to become better human beings. Jihad can be as much about getting up at three in the morning to pray. It is a fight against our own desires for the path of righteousness and every individual is responsible for his actions.”

Sheikh Bilal held another talk on the next day titled Islam Branded, while the motivational speaker and former rapper, Mutah Beale delivered his lecture titled, Thug Life on Sunday afternoon.

Courtesy : TODAY’s newspaper

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