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Understanding Islamic beliefs

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A Human Rights Watch report titled "We Are Not the Enemy" indicated that hate crimes in the United States rose 1,700 percent after Sept. 11, 2001. Muslims, Arab Americans and those thought to be Muslim or Arab were victims of assault, arson, vandalism and murder, the report said.

In response, and in hopes of dispelling misunderstanding of Islamic principles, a group of American Muslims established a Web site, www.islamfaq.org, to provide facts about the faith. An excerpt:

Islam means "submission to the will of God." Islam teaches belief in only one God, the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions. Islam greatly values peace.

Muhammad is accepted as the Prophet of Islam, as the last in a series of God's messengers, which also includes Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus.

Allah is the Arabic word for "God."

The Q'uran is the holy book of Islam. It instructs Muslims to respect other faiths.

Islam's basic teachings are about the worship of God, respect and care for parents, good neighboring and giving to the needy, poor and orphaned. Any act of goodness will elevate a person closer to God.

Terrorism goes against every principle of Islam. If a Muslim engages in terrorism he is not following the religion. He may be wrongly using the name of Islam for political or financial gain.

Jihad does not mean "holy war." Jihad means to strive against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society and to stop injustice.

Women, according to Islamic teaching, are equal to but different from men. Islam does not condone oppression of women, but teaches they must be respected and protected. In some Middle Eastern countries women may be limited in certain rights. This is not due to Islam but due to the culture of that area. According to the Q'uran, men and women are equal before God. Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings.

Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States, with an estimated 7 million adherents in the United States and 1.2 billion around the world. Only 20 percent of the world's Muslims are Arabs and live in the Middle East.