Yesterday I went to visit a mosque. My wife is attending medical studies and her class was invited to visit one. I snuck with them. In the group were 8 women, 3 men. Three of the women are muslims, one has her hair covered always. Are women allowed inside a Mosque? Yes, as long as their hair is covered and no bare arms. We were met by an non-priest sort of guide. This PR-person met us with a smile and said we could ask him anything. The groups teacher said we didn't want a "religuos tour" but rather focus on cultural aspects. (Islam - hands on in medical care perspective). This PR-guy (I call him that, because his purpose was to give us a good view of Islam and the mosque - I don't know if he was allowed to skip some rethoric) anyway, he immidiatly told us that Islam was the one religion that all others were offspring from. Brief recap of jewish and christian religions. (Praticulary unasked for) We got the little tour of the Mosque and some question of practical matter arised. He was generally praqmatic. Hair, food and issues with religion means little come crisis. Muslims are allowed to eat pork in case of famine or such. Then he asked if we know what Jihad was. My wife and a fellow male student said "Holy war" with one voice. PR guy frowned and his voice got a little tension to it. It means "freedom". Muslims never attack if not attacked first. Rethoric followed by Iraq-example(!) (Remeber, this is the PR guy). So he asks if we think the civilians of Iraq is better off now, with US precence. All quiet. Then the Muslim girl in her 20ies says "yes". PR guy looses his posture. "How can you say that!?!". "Saddam was a dictator and there was no end to suffering in sight. I am Kurd". Subject dropped. He then, after a brief break, resumes talking about Islam view of women. They are "needed" and a "must" since they are 50% of us - naturally we believe in equallity. All three Muslim women objects. PR guy looses it again. Breif objections: - Why can't women pray along the men in the Mosque? PR: Because women may distract men from parying. GROUP: Smiling cynically. - Why may a Muslim man take a Christian wife and she must not convert, but not the otherway around? PR: Tradition. GROUP: Beginning to feel akward. And so it went on. PR-guys Islam is clearly not equal in many ways. My personal first hand impressions are: Islam by the Mosque is pretty backwards, quite intolerrant and non-progressive. True conservatives resides there. Also they picture their religion as more of "in-debt" or "guilt" rather than "love" and "forgiveness". Most of my prejudice towards Islam was confirmed. BUT The three Muslim women in the group made another picture clear. Muslims are not a unity. Those women were brave, outspoken and still practicing Muslims. The future of their religion lies in their hands. I actually hope this can enlight some of you - it did enlight me. Try not to hold a prejudice againt Muslims or Arabs in general, but keep questioning the "PR-guys" and their leaders. They DO burst in sunlight. My guess is that it will take time, but eventually only the moderate Muslims will be left to carry on the religous work. This time can probably be shortened by us learning and not strike down on Muslims,Arabs or Islam in general.