Essay by gole April 2004

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Section I: Growing up in the west, Muslim youth face many problems when exploring their faith. Some associate these problems with Islam, but in reality, the problems are a result of questionable cultural traditions, many of which contradict the Quran and Sunnah, Islam's holy texts. Thus, my project seeks to clarify the difference between cultural traditions, such as marrying from amongst one's relatives or tribe, and religious ones, like memorizing specific verses from the Quran. It encourages readers to not make assumptions or generalizations without knowing the facts first. For example, one should not assume that because Bin Ladin was a Muslim, who committed numerous acts of terror, that all Muslims are terrorists. Nor should one assume that because many of the recent acts of terror that have been committed around the world were done so by Muslims, that "terrorism" is considered an Islamic or a religious tradition.

I hope that after reading my paper, readers will be able to easily differentiate between Middle Eastern and Islamic traditions, and that this ability to differentiate will aid them in not making assumptions without knowing the facts.

My paper applies to a universal audience because there are over a billion Muslims in the world. These people are Arabs, Kurds, Persians, Asians, Europeans, and Africans. They come from a variety of cultural traditions, and each of them has interpreted the Koran differently according to those traditions. In addition this dialogue between culture and tradition is very universal. We see this same tension between culture and tradition in Christianity, Judaism, and all major faiths. For example, orthodox Jews accuse many other Jews of being too westernized for doing work on the Sabbath. They believe a true Jew must do nothing on the Sabbath short of a life or death emergency. In Christianity, un-Christian institutions...