Reflections of an American Muslim

Written by Dr. Shahid Athar   

God has said in the Quran, "All of you who believe, save yourself and Your family from a fire whose fuel is man and stone, over which are appointed angels, stern and strong, who resist not God's command but do what they are ordered to do" (66:6).

I begin this discussion with a story. There was a boat with two decks or levels and there were passengers on both levels. The boat was traveling quietly down the river. Suddenly, someone from the lower deck went to the top deck and said, "Do you know what is happening on the lower deck?" The people on the upper deck asked what was happening on the lower deck. He said, "The lower deck ran out of water. There is no drinking water and you know what they have found to be the solution to take care of their water shortage? They have drilled a hole in the bottom of the boat to get water." The people on the upper deck said, "So what. It is their problem on the lower deck and they have found their own solution for this. We have plenty of water so we don't have to worry about it."

When the water entered the lower deck, it also sank the people on the upper deck because the whole boat sank in the river. Thus, the social problems of this country are also the social problems of Muslims, even if Muslims are not involved and even if it is not affecting them at this time. The following are problems that American Muslims have to address now or later:
1. Strengthening their family life. We need an intact family in order to survive. Therefore, a strong family institution is the basis of the Islamic community.
2. We have to take care of ourselves physically. We Muslims are not that good in taking care of our health ourselves and therefore they are not prepared to meet a crisis if one comes.
3. We have to have excellence in education.
4. We have to be financially independent.
5. We have to provide equal opportunities for women. It is not enough to talk about women's rights. They have to be given their due share in all of the levels possible including community organizations and jobs.
6. We have to develop a support system for the elderly because we are going to become elderly and we don't know whether we will end up in nursing homes or there will be some retirement homes built around a mosque where we will be able to live peacefully. We have to also take care of the widows and orphans because it has been commanded to us by God. We have to take care of those who are poor, homeless and needy.
7. We have to develop an Islamic perspective on issues affecting our American society including abortion, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, homosexuality, AIDS, right to life, poverty, and child and wife abuse.

One of our problems is how to develop self-esteem for Muslims. We have been labeled as terrorists, hijackers, and backward people. Anytime anything happens in the society, which is bad, like a murder or a bombing of a building, either Muslims are blamed or framed for that and we are made to feel bad. We know that there are a lot of crimes that happen otherwise in the society. There are close to 100,000 rapes a year, close to 23,000 murders every year, millions of thefts a year, but no one says that those people who are committing all of these crimes are Christians or Jews which, in fact, they are. Now, Islam is being judged according to the actions of a few bad people and we are all made to defend Islam for the wrongdoing of a few. So how do we feel good about ourselves? How do we promote the good image of Islam? This is something to question. We can do this by being a good Muslim, by showing Islam through our example, by telling non-Muslims that Islam is a way of life and a Muslim is in a state of being in Islam or a state of submission to the Will of God. So self-esteem depends upon the degree to which we are a Muslim. Therefore, those who are trying to defame Islam by their non-Islamic actions should have no effect on us. Non-Muslims should not judge us by their actions.

We also have to have good relationships with non-Muslims on a personal level. We should show them that we do care for all Americans and their social needs and their problems because we are also Americans. When we are advised through the Traditions to take care of our neighbor, they do not say that those neighbors have to be Muslim. Therefore, we should present Islam in a way that it creates a good image of us and our religion.

One of the major concerns should be the education of ourselves, our family and our children. We live in a society where education interestingly enough is not very much emphasized. Up to 25% of U.S. high school students drop out every year nationally and they are doing very poorly on the international level in many fields. For example, in the area of geography, of 9 developing countries including Sweden, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy, France, U.K., and Mexico, the U.S. was at the bottom out of a possible 16 correct answers in a question of geography. American students gave only 6.9 correct answers, the lowest of all the other countries. In science, out of close to 20 countries, American students were number 17 and their score was 16.5 while the highest score was 21.7. 1 am saying all of this because if we leave Muslim children in the public school system and do not make enough effort to improve their education, they will become like the rest of the Americans with very minimal knowledge acquired to compete with the rest of the world. In fact, it has been shown that children of immigrants are not doing as good in terms of education or job placement as their parents who came from less developed but more hard-working countries.

What about poverty in this country? This country, so rich, so big, so powerful, has the highest number of big houses and also the highest number of homeless people. One out of every 5 children in the U.S. lives in a household with an income level below the poverty level. Compared to international standards, the U.S. leads Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, France, the U.K., Australia and Canada in the number of children at poverty level and the number of elderly who are impoverished. Just to give an example, in Sweden, 1.6 percent of the children live in poverty and 4.3 of the elderly live in poverty, but in the United States, the figures are 20.4 and 10.9 respectively.

The problem of poverty is affecting ethnic minorities more than the white Anglo-Saxon class. After the generation of Muslim doctors and engineers, who are well-placed now, has passed, if Muslim children are not able to establish themselves, then they may also slip into the level of poverty.

The next social concern in the present society is the lack of intact families. 25% of children have only one parent living with them who has to also earn a living so the children are being raised by television, the so- called "latch kid syndrome." Again, the U.S. leads all of the developing countries in the number of children who are being raised by single par- ents. The percentage for the U.S. is 26-% as compared to Japan at 5 %. Thus, it is so important for Muslim families to have intact families in which one of the parents is able to take care of the children while the children are young when the other parent works.

The next issue I want to address is alcohol and drug abuse in this country. According to the 1988 figures, close to 18 million Americans use marijuana, 15 million are alcoholics, 5.5 million use cocaine, 2 million are heroin addicts and 6 million are addicted to prescription drugs. The number of drug offenders per 100,000 of the population in the United States, is more than 20 other developing countries. The figure for the U.S. is 346 while the figure for example of, the United Kingdom is 56 and Japan is 1. The United States has a big appetite for cocaine and marijuana and again, it leads 30 different Western countries in this craving. The amount of marijuana consumed in the United States is 3,485 kilos per million population and 38.1 kilo of cocaine. For Japan, this figure is 1.6 for marijuana and none for cocaine. 25% of high school children in this country consume marijuana, 6.7 percent are on LSD, 2.5 percent are on cocaine and 0.3 percent are on heroin. The drug problem is costing this country large amounts of money which should have been spent on social welfare. $1 10 billion is involved in drug trafficking; $117 billion is lost in lost revenue and treatment of alcoholism; and $2.5 billion was allotted by Congress to fight the drug problem.

There are 10,000 cocaine children bom every year. Each cocaine child, that is, a child that is bom to a cocaine addicted mother, costs about $ 1 00,000 per month in a newborn nursery care. Interestingly enough, $20 million is spent every year in advertisements for alcohol and the U.S. is also the No. 2 producer of marijuana.

I am saying all of this because if we are going to leave our children to mix with those children who are on drugs or play basketball with children who are on drugs, then it is possible that our children will also get this habit because of peer pressure.

Violence is also a major problem in our society. Close to 20 %of the people are victims of violence once in their lifetime. This country again leads the rest of the civilized world in the number of murders committed per year. Washington, D.C. is not only the political capital, but is also the drug and murder capital of the world. In the United States, 23,438 people were killed in homicides in 1990 compared to 139 in Austria and 34 in Finland. Again, for some of the other most advanced countries like Australia and England, the figure is close to 2,000.

There have been surveys conducted in high schools with metal detectors that students have to pass and many students have been found to carry different weapons-knives, guns, chains, and other items. The number of violent crimes and homicides is much higher among black youth. The greatest danger to black youth in America is not from a white policeman, but from another black youth.

One of the reasons behind the violence in our society is television. Television, by showing violence, promotes violence. An average child watching 2 hours of television a day is exposed to 9,000 acts of violence per year. This violence is shown not only on the television, but also in recorded music. Many of the heavy metal types of rock music preach nothing but sex and violence and, in fact, there is the suggestion that in some of the rock music, there is subliminal, or unconscious, suggestion to induce violence such as a Satanic cult. This has again trickled down even to comic books. Thus, if we see violent behavior in Muslim children, it is not their own fault as the nature originated by God in all children is corrupted through the nurturing process. Children become what they see, what they hear and what kind of people they are with.

Another problem in the society, especially in the youth, is of sexual promiscuity. 54% of high school children are sexually active and the number increases as they increase in their grade. By the twelfth grade, 72 % said in a popular survey that they had had sex. So if you visit the hallways of high schools, you will see acts of kissing and other socialization openly taking place. Again, an average child watching TV for 2 hours a day is exposed to TV programs per year with 5,000 sexual suggestions as we see in soap operas and other programs and therefore, it gets into their brain that sexual activity is a normal part of development.

What does this increased sexual activity lead to or result in?

1. There is a high number of teenage pregnancy in this country. Close to 1.5 million teenagers become pregnant annually. The numbers are higher both among whites and black and both in upper and lower socio- economic groups. Interestingly enough, the United States, which spends more money on sex education than other developing countries, still has the highest pregnancy rate, higher than France, Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

Let's talk about dating. Dating has become a part of normal social development in this country. A girl who does not date is considered sometimes anti-social. In fact, teachers have sometimes told parents of Muslim girls in high school that their daughter is abnormal because she does not socialize and although many boys want to date her, she has refused. When a young boy and a young girl go out on a date, it is not as it used to be in the old days. Maybe not on the first date, but soon thereafter, the date results in having sex. But apart from the sex, there are many other things that can happen to girls when they go out on dates. One of them is date rape just as was alleged in the Smith-Kennedy case in Florida. Nearly all of the unreported and one-third of the reported rapes in this country, which were 100,000 in 1990-91 according to Newsweek, were committed by a current or former boyfriend.

This country, which has given women so many rights now, and women's liberation, which has come to a peak, has not been able to pro- tect them from the evils of society. It has a large number of women, over 100,000, who are raped every year. Only 10 % of rapes are reported, so the actual number is much higher. And, again, compared to 20 different Western countries, the United States leads in the number of rapes reported per 100,000 women. The number for the U.S. is 114, in the U.K. it is 9 and in Japan it is 7, in Ireland it is 4.

This high number of teenage pregnancies and other pregnancies leads to abortion. The name, abortion, should be changed to infanticide. In this country, close to 1.2 million living fetuses are aborted every year. Since 1973, 30 million living fetuses have been murdered. Of 4.5 million live births in this country, 1.6 million or close to one-third, are the result of out-of-wedlock or illegitimate pregnancies. Abortion makes no distinction in terms of class. Of all economic levels, it is affecting in terms of 25 to 30 %. It is 18.5 % in the married population and 63.3 % in unmarried. population and 33 % non-whites and 67 % in whites, 31.5 % are Catholics and 41.9 % are Protestants. In this survey, 22 % of Americans said that they did not belong to a particular religion or they were atheists. Again the United States is leading the world, not only in the number of teenage pregnancies, but also in the number of abortions. The number is higher than in Britain, Canada, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Another danger of premarital or extra-marital sex is sexually transmitted disease. The annual incidence of syphilis in this country is 130,000, gonorrhea 1.4 million, chlamydia 4 million, pelvic inflanimatory disease 420,000, genital herpes 500,000, Hepatitis B 300,000 and AIDS over 200,000.

Now that I am on the subject of AIDS, I want to speak in more detail about this. It is not true that it is a disease of only homosexuals. Thus far, Muslims cannot just say that since they don't practice homosexuality, they are immune from this disease One can get AIDS from blood transfusions, IV drugs, or heterosexual contact with an AIDS patient or handling the excrement of an AIDS person.

Therefore, there many ways of getting AIDS. It is a world-wide epidemic now. The incidence of HIV virus world-wide is: United States, I million; South America, I million; Africa, 6 million; Southeast Asia, 500,000; Australia, 30,000; Soviet Union, 20,000; China, 20,000; and Europe, 500,000

The total number of HIV infected people in the Middle East is only 30,000. HIV infection is the carrier state and will manifest itself in due course, maybe in 10 years, and may manifest as the AIDS syndrome in 10 years. Again, the U.S. is leading all the civilized world in the number of actual AIDS cases. The number of AIDS cases has increased to 202,000 as of 1991 and it is increasing at a geometric proportion. The number of AIDS, for example in Japan, another developed country, is only 405. Out of the 10 n-tillion infected world-wide with HIV, 900,000 are children and newborns who got AIDS, not through the practice of homosexuality, but through their mothers who were either drug abusers or partners of AIDS cases. More than 55 % of all of the AIDS cases in the United States reported so far, have already died. It is projected that by 1996, the number of AIDS in this country will double. Of all the 21 Muslim countries in the Middle East, the total population is close to half a billion. Only 366 AIDS cases have been reported so the lifestyle of non-practicing homosexuality does help. Of all these 355 cases, again many are imported cases just like they import Western cars and Western weapons and cosmetics, so they visit the casinos of Las Vegas, Reno, and other resorts in Europe and they bring back home a gift for their wives.

AIDS is a really terrible disease to have. It destroys the immune system totally so that the body has no defense against any infection. I have seen a few AIDS patients who have been in terrible physical shape, either from the disease or from the treatment. The life expectancy, after acquiring the disease, is only five years. The cost of one treatment of AZT alone is $8,000 per year.

The cost of education and prevention of AIDS in this nation is $10,000 per person and although many people are dying of cancer and heart disease, only 3.5 dollars per person is being spent on cardiac rehab and education and $185.00 per person is being spent on cancer prevention. On the other hand, for example, in 1990, 800,000 Americans died of myocardial infarction, The point I am making is that much of our money which should go for social reform and preventive health is going to AIDS which could have been prevented if we had changed our life style at an earlier time. Prophet Muhammad (&) has said, "When sin afflicts people and they publicize it, then God subjects them to ailments unknown to their forefathers" (reported in Tirmidhi).

AIDS was not known to us 10 to 15 years ago. It was when homosexuality became an accepted way of life in this society and was being publicized as "gay rights," that AIDS became recognizable and manifested in disease.

What is the solution? The solution that is being proposed is "protection." The only way you can prevent AIDS is that you have to have "pro- tection" when you engage in sex. The crime for Magic Johnson was not that he engaged in illegal sex or had sex parties, but that he did not have "protection" available when he did so. So you see, "prophylactics" are being advertised on billboards, on television, being dispensed in the schools and in clinics and they will soon be available next to candy and cigarette machines. But is it going to work? No. it will not work because of several reasons.

1. "Prophylactics" are expensive. A good type costs about one dollar a piece and a drug addict or a teenager will spend that dollar or the number of dollars he may use in one night on drugs or candies rather than on the protection. So it has to be freely available to as many people and as much as they want in order to make any dent.

Another point is the FDA study says that I out of 5 condoms have failed the test to hold back the AIDS virus. That is because the AIDS virus is 1/5th the size of sperm and, therefore, is permeable. Now the CDC, which is the Center for Disease Control, is coming up with new guidelines and they are telling people to ask their sex partners some questions before engaging in sex. These are:
1. Have you ever been tested for HIV or other STD?
2. How many sex partners do you have?
3. Have you ever been with a prostitute?
4. For a woman to ask the man, "Have you ever had sex with another man?"
5. Have you ever had sex partners injected with drugs?
6. Have you ever had blood transfusions with blood products?

It becomes clear that if one asks so many questions of his or her sex partner, that person will not agree to have sex with them. They are also coming up with some new advice.

1. Don't do it-that is what we have been telling them, that is to say, abstinence may be unrealistic, but that is the only sure thing.
2. Wear protection
3. Use spermicide
4. Be monogamous. That means "don't fool around." That is what we have been told, too.
5. Avoid anal sex. God has said that too.

But is all of this education changing our lifestyle? Not really. In one survey, the question was asked that as a result of Magic Johnson's announcement that he has AIDS, do you practice safe sex now? 25% said no. Do you talk to your children about AIDS? 27-% said no. Do you limit the number of sex partners you have? 33-% said no. Have you had your blood tested to find out if you are infected?, 57 % said no. Do you contribute to AIDS charities? 59 % said yes because by so giving charity to AIDS they hoped to prevent themselves from getting it..

One of the good things that has happened with the AIDS epidemic is that it has taken care of the sexual revolution of the sixties. People are more careful in engaging in extra-marital sex and choosing their sex partner. As someone at St. Andrew's Church said in 1778, "Fear of disease is a happy restraint to the human being's vain desires, for if human beings were more healthy, there is a chance they will be less righteous." As far as Muslims are concerned, it is not only the fear of disease, but the fear of God's displeasure, as well.

Treatment of women is another social problem in this society. While we Muslims are being blamed for being oppressive to women, keeping them under the veil, making them walk behind us, not giving them their freedom and liberty, and beating them, it is these Jews and Christians who are actually abusing women. When Islam gave women 1,400 years ago the right to divorce, what was the status of women in Europe? When did they get the right to divorce? In America, when did women get the right to vote? (It was is 1921) In New Zealand, women got the right to vote in 1961.

Over I million women in this country are abused physically by their husbands or boyfriends to the extent that they have to seek medical help in emergency rooms. Many of them actually end up dying. Now I am not saying that Muslim women are not being abused. They are being abused by Muslim men who do not realize what God has told them and what the Prophet has shown them by example-how to relate to women. Therefore, violence is a problem and it is getting worse also in Muslim communities, but obviously not to the same extent. Therefore, we have to treat our women in a nice way. Prophet has said that, "The best among you is the one who is the best towards his (wife, sister, mother, daughter). We are to provide for them, care for them, and to protect them, not to abuse them verbally, emotionally, and/or physically.

Child abuse is another problem in this country. About 1.7 million reports of child abuse takes place in this country per year out of which 53 % are confirmed. The types of abuse are in these 1992 statistics-400,000 for neglect, 227,000 physical abuse, 138,000 sexual abuse, 57,000 emotional abuse, and 68,000 of other types of abuse.


Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has said about usury, "A time will come when usury will reach the people like 'musk' (perfume)." That is to say, "It will reach everyone whether they want it or not." In the same way, to some extent, nudity and pornography affects all of us whether we want it or not. Just turn on the TV to watch the evening news and you will be confronted with a young woman in a bikini to advertise for one-calorie Pepsi or for feminine hygiene products or for nutritious cereal. If you want some more action, you can watch the soap operas or prime time programs like "Full House" or late night movies. It reaches also in the written media, in magazines, newspapers and in music programs like MTV and Friday night video, etc.

It is not enough to say to Muslim youth that Islam prohibits such things. They ask for the reasoning process behind why it is wrong, what it leads to and so forth. They will not accept, "Don't watch it," when they ask, "Why?" and the answer comes back, "Because I said so." They ask to discuss the pros and cons to arrive at an intelligent answer. The proponents of nudity present the following argument:

1. It is protected by freedom of speech. The response is that the First Amendment is misunderstood and misapplied. Yes, we have certain rights and certain freedoms, but there is a concept of limited freedom. As long as my freedom does not affect someone else's freedom, it may be okay. If I smoke in my own closet, dance naked in my own bedroom, I am affecting only myself, but if I do the same thing outside, I am encroaching on the freedom of other people. Just like we do not like to get second- hand smoke, we don't have to accept second-hand nudity and pomography. Therefore, this is a wrong definition of freedom of expression.

2. It is harmless entertainment as compared to the violence in TV and movies. Response: True, in the short term, nudity and pornography appear to be less harmful than the violence shown on TV and in the movies. However, the long-term effect in much more serious and sometimes the two are tied together. It is a form of an addiction. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, admitted that his criminal behavior began by watching movies on bondage and pornography. Child pornography is another disease which has contributed to 500,000 cases of incest involving father and daughter per year in this country. Child slave trade for sex involves 5 million children worldwide.

3. It is educational. Response: If at all true, it is a poor quality of education. Most of the lessons on anatomy are given to medical students these days on a calendar or a plastic replica. It is not necessary to show live human bodies and sex ads to impart education. Even sex education,as such, is more of a theory than practice. How can a person receiving such a vivid education refrain himself from practicing on others? This is the reason for more than 100,000 rapes being committed annually in this country and the majority of date rapes are not even reported. How can bondage be called "education." Positions of sex can be learned after marriage by experiment rather than by memorizing books or movies?

If it is not necessary to teach baby ducks how to swim, why is it necessary for teenagers to be taught the education of sexual techniques before they are expected to engage in them.


1. Degradation of women. Women and their skin are being used to advertise every product, cosmetics, dresses, perfumes and even medications. It is a form of oppression of women and a form of enslaving them. Many of the exercise videos are using obscene positions to sell those programs. Many of the unnatural sex acts shown in some of the x-rated movies are committed by force and under threat. Many of the tortures which are shown in bondage are against the will of women.

2. Watching nudity desensitizes men and women to normal sexual stimulus. People get used to it and therefore, this is the most common cause of psychological impotency in this country. Just by becoming used to these in order to get an arousal, they have to perform some more weird acts than plain, simple nudity can provide.

3. Nudity and pornography are an addiction which leads to other crimes including drugs, murder, rape, abduction, child molestation, and incest. One leads to another until a person pays for that crime behind bars for many years to come. It is not as innocuous as people claim. It is a perversion. There are clubs of sex alcoholics just like Alcoholics Anonymous or AA where people share their previous experiences in order to enter therapy.

4. Finally, it is a waste of time. The time that is spent on vain desires and pursuit of happiness at the cost of others can be utilized in many constructive ways to include improving their knowledge by reading good books, doing housework, sports, exercise or perhaps of remembrance of God because to Him is our return.

Islam blocks the wrong act at its inception and not at the end. Not only is the drinking of wine prohibited, but selling it, serving it, keeping it, or even growing grapes just for the purpose of selling it to a winery is also prohibited. In the same context, not only premarital and extra-marital sex is prohibited, but anything which leads to such, that is, the close intimate mixing of two sexes is also prohibited. Thus the concept of "do not come near adultery" given in the Holy Quran is better than "thou shall not commit adultery," mentioned in the Bible. In the latter phase, it is impolite or wrongful that you go ahead and do anything that can lead up to adultery as long as you do not commit the act itself, while in the former, anything which leads to adultery is also wrong.

Thus, in Islam there is the concept of lowering the gaze for both women and men when they look at each other because it is through visual stimulation that other thoughts take place and hormones come into action which incline people to do things which they would otherwise not do.

There is also a concept of modesty (hiya) which is a beautiful characteristic of a true believer. Modesty is maintained by keeping his or her gaze low and trying to protect himself or herself from wrongful influences. The incentive to do right is more if we know the consequences of doing wrong in this life and in the life hereafter.

Now I want to comment about the tools of survival. The tools of social survival for us are: 1) development of our physical well- being.,That is, to take care of our health; 2) our moral and spiritual well- being; 3) educational well-being; 4) to practice Islam collectively; 5) to gain financial strength; 6) political strength; 7) sharing our blessings; 8) unity for the sake of God's satisfaction.

Now let me give you the guiding principles from the Holy Quran for the tools of survival. For the matters of health, we are told, "We created the human being in the best of them all but then we restored him to the lowest of the low except for those who believe and do good" (95:4-5). Good health from God is a gift to us and our body is a trust from Him. Not taking care of our bodies is a breach of trust for which we will be held accountable.

Second, "Blessed is He in whose hand is the sovereignty and He is able to do all things who created life and death that He may test you, which of you is in best conduct and He is the mighty, the forgiving" (67: 1 - 3). Again, this verse tells us that we are here on this earth as a result of a design of God that we conduct ourselves in a manner that we were told to conduct and then we give this account on how we conducted ourselves in a test when we appear before Him once again.

Third,,"Successful are the ones who purify themselves and losers are the ones who pollute their souls" (91:7-9). This verse stresses the importance of chastity and purity of conduct. We need to instill this concept in all of us, especially our youth who are more prone to temptations of the world.

The fourth principle is the abomination for adultery. "Do not come near to adultery. Surely it is a shameful deed and evil opening roads to other evil." (17:32). What this means is that the approach or whatever leads to adultery should also be blocked. When the Bible says, "Thou shall not commit adultery," people take it the wrong way thinking that you can do anything which may lead to adultery, but stop short of committing adultery. Islam not only forbids that wrong at the end, but also at the inception. Thus, social mixing or wearing provocative clothes or many other forms, like drinking alcohol which can lead to adultery between men and women, are also prohibited.

Premarital sex which leads to the problems mentioned earlier including abortion, is nothing but to sustain a way of life free from any patience. As one of the Western scholars has said, "Without God, everything is possible." So most of the 1.2 million abortions which are done in this country are not to save the life of the mother or for the sake of rape or incest but to sustain a life of sexual freedom. What does God say in the Holy Quran for those who want to have such enjoyment? "Such as those who took their way of life to be more amusement and play and were deceived by life of this world, that we shall forget them as they forgot the meeting of this date of theirs and they were bent upon rejecting Our Signs" (7:5 1).

In order to attain Islamic education, we have to emphasize the value of total education. If we are going to leave our children 40 hours a week in secular schools, we cannot compete with 2 hours of religious education in Sunday school. Thus, we have to put forth equal efforts. In Islamic school, not only do we need to teach the Quran and religious knowledge, but also how to conduct ourselves in the outside world, especially in dealing with the opposite sex and combatting peer pressure.

I am proposing that Islamic schools should develop curriculum for gender interaction or sex education with a course being given to girls by female physicians and nurses or teachers and to the boys by male physicians or other elders to prepare them for a life which they will be living once they reach puberty and get married. We have also a need to bring Muslim boys and girls together under Islamic guidelines in knowing each other so that when they do decide to marry, they choose a Muslim counterpart. Muslim youth have told me, "Our parents do not allow us to see a person of the opposite sex except in the mosques and at Sunday school, but they do not control us in seeing or meeting the opposite sex of non- Muslims in a school system." Now who do you think they will marry when they grow up? The one with whom they have spent 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, or the one whom they are never allowed to meet and see or talk to.

We have to teach our men that women are not just a bed partner or a housekeeper. We are told in Quran to treat them with respect. In the chap- ter on women the Quran starts by saying, "Oh people, keep your duty to your Lord who created you from a single being and created its mate of the same kind and spirit; from these two, many men and women and keep your duty to God by whom you demand one other your rights and to the ties of relationship surely God is ever watching you" (4: 1). So we are to respect the woman who gave birth to us, who kept us in their body for nine months and nurtured us before we were ever able to stand on our feet. And Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has said that "the importance of mother in one who is going to lead you to paradise, is three times more than that of the father."

The verse which deals with the relationship of husband and wife says, "Women are garment for men and men are garment for women" (2:187). What does that mean that since clothes protect us from outside influences of weather since they are close to our body, since they beautify us, since they are available to us all the time, so should be role of our spouse in our life. Islam places great emphasis on marriage as an institution. It says, "Among his signs is this that He created for you mates from among your- self that you many dwell in tranquility with them and He has put love and mercy between your heart. Thus in that are signs for those who reflect" (30:21). And our beloved Prophet has said that "marriage is my tradition. He who rejects my tradition is not one of us." (see Bukhari and Muslim) He also said, "Marriage is half of the religion, the other half is being God- fearing" (see Tabarani and Hakim).

In terms of AIDS education, we have to take precautions in being exposed to contaminated blood and secretions if we are in a medical profession or we are a patient. Many people are having auto-transfusion, that is, using their own blood, before an elective surgery or doing emergency requesting blood from their relatives.

We are also to teach our non-Muslim friends how homosexuality has been condemned in all the scripture and they have to return to basic teachings if they have to deal with the problem on a permanent basis.

In a community center, we have to work toward establishing clinics for taking care of Muslims who are not able to afford private medical care. We need to also give training to our people for paramedical help and we need to do public education in such clinics. The training of paramedical people should involve first-aid and nursing, CPR, pre-school physical, nutritional counseling, psychological counseling and taking care of sports injuries. We also need to develop a program for exercise for Muslim men and women.

I suggest that in each community center, there should be an exercise room and days can be assigned that Muslim men and women or boys and girls can enjoy it on separate days. We need to teach our community to quit smoking, to manage their stress, their weight and recognize warning symptoms for chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease and maybe we can have a screening program for them, too. We also need to take care of our Muslim inmates in the prisons As you know, there are 200,000 Muslims in the U.S. prisons now. They were not Muslims when they entered the prisons. They were sentenced to prison in an anonymous state and by the Grace of God, they are coming out as Muslims including Mike Tyson. Do we have a program for them when they come out so that they will be absorbed by the Muslim community? Will Muslim women or men be likely to marry them? Will Muslim employers give them a job so that they do not need to commit another crime and end up in jail again as many of the other inmates do? These are some questions that we have to think about. I am proposing that in each community center, there should be a social support committee which should consist of the Imam, the Muslim physicians, Muslim attorney, a nurse, a psychologist, a counselor who is able to provide for the social needs of the community either in terms of care or advise of counseling and crisis.

Finally the Quran says, "You have been created as best of the mankind because you enjoin what is good andforbid what is wrong and you believe in God" (3: 1 1 0). Is one of our purpose of life but remember, this verse is not a blank check that we have been raised as best community unless we do those three things and this verse also tells us that there is no concept in Islam of secular humanism or being a nice guy unless we do something as a believer for God's satisfaction.