Prior to his lecture on campus Wednesday night, Imam Sayid Hassan al-Qazwini sat down for tea and a fireside chat with a group of NMU students and community members in the Lutheran Campus Ministry house.
Rev. Jon Magnuson, director of Lutheran Campus Ministry at NMU, welcomed Qazwini and solicited introductions from the group of more than 20, which had gathered to talk with the Imam. The crowd that gathered was varied, and included Quakers, Jews, Catholics, Christians, Methodists and Presbyterians, among others.
Qazwini, a Muslim and the leader of the Islamic Center of America, opened the discussion by recounting a trip he took through California with his brother soon after arriving in America. After passing a church with hundreds of cars in the parking lot, Qazwini insisted that his brother stop so that they could watch the service.
He was surprised by what he heard.
“I kept hearing the word ‘love,'” he said. “And I said, ‘Look, in our religion, we talk about love . everything he says is there in my religion.”
Qazwini was born in Karbala, Iraq and has family living there now. Some members of his family were vocal opponents of Saddam Hussein-his father was forced to flee the country and 15 of his family members were executed by Hussein’s regime. As such, Qazwini, who has occasionally returned to Iraq since 2003, has a privileged take on the current U.S. occupation.
He told an Iraqi allegory about a bull with its head stuck in an oven to represent the relationship between America and Iraq. In the tale, the owners of the oven ask a local grocer, who is assumed to be wise, to help them with their problem. In an attempt to remove the bull, the grocer kills the animal and destroys the oven before praising his own problem-solving abilities.
“(Iraqi) people are grateful to the U.S. for removing Saddam Hussein,” Qazwini said. “We got rid of him, but we ruined the country.”
The Imam went on to say that the source of much of the current violence in Iraq can be traced back to a small group of radical Iraqis.
“I can safely say that 95 to 97 percent of Iraqis abhor the violence done in their country, but there is nothing they can do.”
Qazwini will also be speaking at noon on Thursday at the St. Paul Episcopal Church on 201 E. Ridge St. in Marquette.