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Distributing English Copies of Muslim Holy Book to Dispel Misconceptions

The Arab American News, News Report, Khalil AlHajal Posted: Dec 14, 2009

DEARBORN, Mich Many Dearborn residents have been wondering about the source of paperback Qur'ans found hanging from doorknobs throughout the city in recent months.

Left: An English copy of the Qur'an hangs from
the front door of a west Dearborn home. Photo:TAAN

The group distributing free copies of an English translation of the Muslim holy book hopes to create better perceptions of Islam by simply making the scripture available.

About 18,000 to 20,000 copies have been distributed in and around Dearborn over the past year, according to Wajahat Sayeed, founder and president of Al-Furqaan Foundation, also known as the Book of Signs Foundation, an Illinois-based nonprofit Muslim organization dedicated to distributing modern English translations of the Qur'an throughout the U.S.

"It's meant to build relationships outside the Muslim community," Sayeed said.

While the intent is to reach non-Muslim households to dispel misconceptions and foster a better understanding of Muslims and Islam, the effort in Michigan started in Dearborn, where many Muslims live, because the group has connected with local mosques and recruited distribution teams in the city.

Including distribution in the Chicago and Houston areas, Sayeed said about 200,000 copies of the Qur'an have been hung on residential front doors in plastic bags since the effort began in 2007.

"The objective is to make a modern English translation of the Qur'an available as widely as possible in this country," he said, "as a way to build a bridge between the communities and so that people understand the religion, not from the actions of people, but rather from what the book says itself."

The version being distributed by the group is a translation by an American Muslim who had a Western audience in mind.

"Other translations were done I don't believe they have any particular focus," Sayeed said. "This particular one is geared more toward a Western audience, because the terminology, the experience base is very different... There is an aya [verse] in the Qur'an that talks about 'slay them wherever you find them.' This is very commonly quoted in the media, but the often neglected fact is that it is referring to a particular situation... Of course the media wants to talk about it as though it means 'slay any non-Muslim wherever you find them,' but that aya is referring to a particular situation, which was in a combat situation... I think most people in the Middle East, for instance, would know that it can't possibly be referring to 'slay them wherever you find them' to indicate that you're going to go around killing... That level of clarity in some places [in this translation] you'll find that it has been clarified that 'wait a second, this is in a combat situation.'"

But he said the translation is direct and does not distort any meanings.

"It's not like we have tried to modify the translation. It's just a simple modern English translation. It doesn't promote any agendas," Sayeed said. "...The intent here is hopefully so that for the Western people, it's clearer... We're hoping to be honest brokers of information."

The ultimate, long-term goal of the project is to get a Qur'an delivered to every home in America, though the level of fundraising necessary would likely take decades.

Sayeed said Al-Furqaan Foundation is funded entirely through donations from American communities, with no funding from any foreign country.

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