Members of the Oklahoma Baptist University community used the Wednesday chapel service to challenge student thinking about Sept. 11 rather than dwell on the tragedy in somber reflection.
The weekly chapel service coincided with the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"We want to have our eyes opened so we're not living simply with a caricature of Sept. 11, 2001, but instead we're able to think in a broad spectrum," said OBU campus minister Dale Griffin at the beginning of the service. "And yet our hearts are still moved because this is a very emotional day."
A panel of professors, representing varied academic fields, worked through recent concerns about future potential for war, the United States' unpopularity in the Muslim world, stereotyping, religious characteristics of Muslims, and implications of the war on terrorism on civil liberties.
Dr. James Farthing, professor of history, Dr. Jerry Faught, Dickinson assistant professor of religion, Dr. Ron Duncan, professor of anthropology, Dr. Tony Litherland, Randel/Scales associate professor of political science, and Dr. Glenn Sanders, professor of history, offered remarks related to their areas of expertise before opening the microphone up for student questions.
Farthing opened the session by reviewing the events of the past year. He warned that many of the issues about the future were difficult to work through.
"A lot of these issues are incredibly ambiguous," he said.
Sanders addressed questions of "Why do they hate us?" and "Why will they hurt us physically, emotionally, economically, politically and any way possible?"
He began by defining who "they" were.
"They're not all Muslims," he said. "They are not a bunch of madmen, despite how easy it is to say so. With some study it is quite apparent that there are reasons behind such extreme actions."
He said that they are primarily Egyptian, Saudi, Palestinian and other young men of Middle Eastern descent, influenced by a type of Islam formed in Afghanistan's jihad conflict in the 1980s and 1990s. They are well-educated professionals, and they oppose what they think is Western - American cultural and political domination.
Faught said that Baptists have long championed the idea of religious pluralism, or the idea that all religions have right to exist, practice faith unhindered, spread their religious faith without harassment.
"Religious pluralism means we have the obligation to understand and to respect the religious faith of others," he said. "We don't have to preach the superiority of Christ by criticizing other religions."
The approach of "unveiling" Islam only caricatures the religion and does not present the faith in its complexity, he said.
"We must move beyond the media's representation of Islam and we must promote dialogue and we must most of all champion religious liberty," he said.
Duncan emphasized the dangers in stereotyping Islamic people.
"It's so easy to work in terms of caricatures, or comic book figures, or stereotypes," he said. "They're simple. They're easy to understand. But the Islamic world is a mosaic of peoples."
Duncan described four Islamic men that he knew from different countries around the world.
"They believe quite different from the 19 who were on those airliners a year ago today," he said. "They believe their religion teaches peace.
"One thing that struck me was how much we are alike. They have families. They work. They are proud of their children. They want to provide the best living possible for their families. They want security. They want peace."
Litherland discussed constitutional and civil liberties issues that students should be questioning in the wake of a war on terrorism.
"The Constitution is precious document and delicate document. Can we hold true to the Constitution in times of stress, potential hatred, war, and terrorism?" he asked.
Litherland mentioned a number of paradoxes that a thinking person faces in times of war.
"You have the right to defend yourself but what is your Christian duty?" he asked.
"The cost of war could very easily be some of your civil rights."
Farthing concluded by questioning how an invasion of Iraq would affect the United States and the Arab world.
Following individual commentaries, the panel opened the floor for student comments and questions. The discussion concluded with short video and a prayer by OBU President Mark Brister.
OBU will host a follow-up session with a film about Muslims tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. in room 307 of Shawnee Hall. The two-hour episode of the PBS series "FRONTLINE" will examine the different faces of Islam's worldwide resurgence and the fundamental tenets of the faith.
For more information, contact OBU's Office of Public Relations at (405) 878-2107 or visit www2.okbu.edu.