We have our differences. But we have our similarities, too.
This is the message delivered by Imam Suhaib Webb during his Wednesday night lecture titled "Why Religion Matters." Hosted by the Muslim Student Association, the event brought approximately 50 attendees to hear Webb discuss issues regarding religion in society today.
Webb, an American convert to Islam, explored social issues, particularly homosexuality and the Islamic stance.
"I had a student of mine ... tell me he's gay," Webb said. "Do I kick him out of the community? Do I refuse to read with him? This community believes that everyone has a right to ministry ... can we think of one time where someone came to the Prophet (Muhammad) and because of something they did the Prophet said they couldn't be part of the community?"
Spurring questions from the audience, Webb clarified that he had no desire to change traditional Islamic beliefs, but that communities should not cast out any member due to their sexual orientation.
"We have a principle that says we do not throw people out of the faith if they commit major sins," Webb said. "The point I'm saying is that in this situation now in this country, if someone is gay he's still a Muslim, she's still a Muslim, we don't say they're not Muslim."
Webb explained that other behaviors, like drinking alcohol, using drugs or engaging in premarital sex, are just as sinful by Islam's standards, but considered "normal" in our society.
"Why don't we have the same stigma?" Webb said. "Because you know what? Because homosexuality in America is still seen as a 'strange sin.' It's changing."
Sara Hussein, a senior majoring in political science, said she agreed with Webb.
"I definitely think the gay topic was super interesting because it doesn't just apply to homosexuality; it applies to everything," Hussein said. "We have to minister to everyone. We have to open our doors to everyone and be like the Prophet."
Other topics included: Islamophobia, the Boston bombing and religion as a man-made form of control.
Webb argued for the necessity of more modern, relatable ways to convey Islam to non-Muslims.
"What we need to be able to do is utilize the image of religion and re-craft how our theology is going to play out and also rewrite books and clips and whatever, for us," Webb said. "I'm not talking about changing the fundamentals here, I'm talking about those things that we can change and negotiate."
Olivia Jones, a senior in College Scholars raised in the Episcopalian Church, converted to Islam two years ago.
"If you practice and you're good to people, that's the best way to teach people," Jones said. "We're so similar."