Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Religious discussion heats up

A lecture about the history of and parallels between Jesus and Muhammad sparked debate about interpretations of religious icons.

About 150 students, faculty and Evanston residents gathered at Ryan Family Auditorium in the Technological Institute on Tuesday night to hear University of Cambridge Prof. Paul Weston and American Islamic College Prof. Gulam Haider Aasi speak about the spiritual and historical attributes of Jesus and Muhammad. They also answered questions from an enthusiastic audience.

The event, which was titled “Encounter Jesus from the Bible and Muhammad from the Qur’an,” was hosted by the student groups Multiethnic InterVarsity and the Muslim Dialogue Platform.

Arda Kutlu, a second-year McCormick graduate student who is part of Muslim Dialogue Platform, said the groups organized the event to improve dialogue between Muslims and Christians.

“(It was a way of) improving our own faiths by learning about others,” Kutlu said.

Weston focused on the religious and spiritual aspects of Jesus. Aasi also included historical facts about Muhammad, drawing parallels between Islam and Christianity.

Weston spoke as if he were preaching in front of a church audience. He stressed that Jesus is the gateway to spirituality.

He said Christianity is “not a man’s arising to go to God, but God’s arising to come to man.”

Aasi said Muhammad was not the only prophet of Islam. But Muhammad was the final Muslim prophet who sealed the messages of all of the preceding prophets through his revelation, he said.

Jesus was a prophet in the Islamic faith, he added.

The speakers strayed from the dialogue when they began debating the different interpretations about the role of Jesus in Christianity and in Islam.

Muslims view Jesus as one of the prophets, but not as a savior. Aasi said many Muslims see Jesus’ sayings as mystical, while Christians take them literally.

Northwestern religion Prof. Ruediger Seesemann, who mediated the debate, finally intervened to return the event back to dialogue and responding audience questions.

Several students asked about the differences between Jesus and Muhammad, as well as about how the two religions differed in their interpretations of human perfection. One student asked about the difference in being a prophet and a savior.

Others in the audience asked more controversial questions. One man provoked the professors by claiming they were not incorporating intellectual theories into their arguments.

These inflammatory questions led to a reconciliation between the visiting speakers. They agreed that they could better understand their own religions by learning more about others, something students at the event also emphasized.

Students said the event was informative and provoked some healthy debate about different religions.

Communication sophomore Deborah Saenz said she attended the event because she thought the event had great education value.

“I have interest in learning about other faiths,” Saenz said. “I don’t know much about the Islamic faith, so I thought this would be a good opportunity.”

Weinberg sophomore Andrea Schnell also said she wanted to learn more about Islam.

“I think it’s good when people come together and speak about God,” she said.

Reach Kamardip Singh at [email protected].

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Religious discussion heats up