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Religious Groups At Sjsu Unite For Change (March 22, 2010)

Could Jesus Christ become a focal point for both the followers of Islam and Christianity to work toward social change? asked a Christian scholar Thursday night.
An audience of 40 people, including a Christian scholar and the president of the Islamic Organization of North America, met to discuss how Christianity and Islam are working toward a common goal of improving social wrongs in society.
Robert Shedinger, an associate professor of religion at Iowa’s Luther College, said Christ could become common ground for the followers of the two religions to work toward social equality in the world.
Mustapha Elturk, president of the Islamic Organization of North America, said the two religions are similar and should work toward common goals.
Elturk said the two belief systems are natural partners for doing good in the world and when they come together, along with other politically active and religious groups, strides social justice can be made for all people.
“Social justice is work that involves everyone,” he said. “Religion and what you believe in will be settled on the day of judgment. I should be open to work with anyone that shares the same concerns in the place where we live to come together to fight these injustices that go on everywhere.”
Shedinger said this is a point he focuses on in his book “Was Jesus A Muslim?”
“If societal transformation towards greater levels of justice is inherent to what it means to be a Muslim and if societal transformation was inherent in the mission of Jesus, then guess what, Jesus was a Muslim,” he said.
Shedinger said this concept is difficult for Christians to accept because of their views on Christ as a religious figure and on Islam as a religion.
He said this thinking isn’t correct because Islam isn’t so much of a religion as it is a way of life of working toward justice and that Christ was not only a religious figure but also a political activist.
Karimah Al-Helew, a senior social work major, said she thought Shedinger’s ideas on religion were interesting because they mirror how Muslims view Islam.
“Hearing a Christian person speak about trying to take Christianity not just as a religion but rather as a way of life, which is how we view Islam,” Al-Helew said. “As Muslims, that’s how we view Islam. It’s not just a religion, it’s a way of life. Seeing that aspect presented from a person of the Christian faith was pretty cool. I like that.”
Lukogho Kasomo, a senior political science major, said she thought the lecture was interesting, but she never thought Jesus as a political reformer.
“This was the first time that I’ve heard this concept of Jesus as a Muslim,” Kasomo said. “Personally, I’ve, theologically I guess, seen Jesus as being radical in general. So, being for social justice in general.”
Al-Helew said political activism is something that’s a daily reality in the United States for the Muslim community and that others will work toward the common goal of bettering society.
“I hope that from this talk that people will see social justice and working for social change is a responsibility and not just an option,” she said. “This is your responsibility, which is how I see it as a Muslim. Fighting for social justice, change and finding equal rights for people that’s not something on the side, it’s something I need to make time for every day.”