KORVA COLEMAN, host:
The Bible is one of the most widely read books in America and not just by Christians. Many come across the holy text in cultural settings. They come across it in politics, and you may even find it in your hotel room. But how much do Americans know about other religious texts, such as the Quran, the holy book of Islam? How often have we heard the Quran recited?
Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language)
COLEMAN: Now, the Council of American-Islamic Relations is trying to educate Americans about the holy Islamic text with the launch of a new campaign: Share the Quran. They intend to distribute 100,000 copies to local, state and national leaders before the end of this year. And to tell us more about this campaign is the executive director of CAIR, Nihad Awad. Mr. Awad, welcome to our program.
Mr. NIHAD AWAD (Executive Director, Council of American-Islamic Relations): Thank you for having me.
COLEMAN: Can you tell me, why did the Council on American-Islamic Relations start the Share the Quran campaign?
Mr. AWAD: The Share the Quran campaign was prompted by President Obama's speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, when he quoted the Quran extensively.
COLEMAN: It's very common for Americans to be able to quote the Bible or even just know stories from the Bible. Why do you think other holy texts, such as the Quran, are so unfamiliar to most Americans?
Mr. AWAD: Well, that's the challenge to us, and that's why we're trying to raise awareness about Islam and the Quran. Interestingly, one-fourth of the world's population is Muslim, and there are almost eight million American Muslims in the country, and yet Islam is one of the most misunderstood religions in the world and the in the United States.
Studies and research have shown that only two percent of Americans feel very knowledgeable about Islam, and also, studies have shown that when knowledge goes up, prejudice goes down. So we thought since the President has quoted the Quran on the universal issues, such as the sanctity of human life, racial and religious diversity, the importance of speaking the truth, we thought maybe it might be a good idea to make the Quran available to Americans so that they can read it for themselves.
What also people don't know about the Quran is the fact that the Quran is the Muslim revealed text. It has not changed since it was revealed 1,400 years ago in Arabic. So whether you are Muslim from China, United States, Arabia or Europe or Asia, you read in Arabic. There are many translations, and the translation we use to distribute the copies of the Quran is by Muhammad Asad(ph), who was a European Jew converted to Islam at the age of 26 in the 20th century. And because of his Jewish background, we felt that he was able to communicate the message of Islam to the West more than any previous translators.
COLEMAN: Can you read one of the brief passages for us?
Mr. AWAD: Sure, of course, there are beautiful verses in the Quran, but one of the ones that I always recite and like is the one that celebrates diversity, and I think President Barack Obama also quoted it in his speech. It is Chapter 49, Verse 12. It says - you want me to say it in Arabic or in English?
COLEMAN: Both. We have very little time. I'll ask you do the English version.
Mr. AWAD: I'll do the Arabic first.
Mr. AWAD: (Speaking foreign language).
Mr. AWAD: The translation of the meaning: All men, behold. We have created you all out of a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.
COLEMAN: Nihad Awad is the executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. That organization has just launched the Share the Quran campaign. He joined us from our studio in Washington, D.C. Mr. Awad, thank you for joining us.
Mr. AWAD: Thank you for having me.
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