Controversial "What Is Islam?" Course Gets Underway

Gia Vang
EUGENE, Ore. -- The much-hyped and much-debated "What Is Islam?" course had its first meeting on Monday night. Getting to that point in Lane County's Harris Hall proved to be quite the challenge for instructor Barry Sommer.

"It was not only enlightening to the audience, but I think I learned a lot by doing this," Sommer told KEZI 9 News, the only TV station there. Sommer says he was doing what he set out to: teach a course called "What is Islam?" even after Lane Community College canceled it.

He spent the first 45 minutes of the two-hour class giving the audience a biography of the Mohammad, then asked for questions, which were plentiful. The audience of 20 was sprinkled with Sommer's opponents, recording his every word.

"It's what we suspected," says Jorge Navarro of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which describes itself as a Muslim-rights group. "[The class will] be a setup. Again, stereotyping the whole belief system as being violent."

Navarro's take was very different than what others who attended the class thought afterward.

"I have been paying attention to the other side saying he's all full of hate," Elmira resident Becky Lemler said. "But so far, I haven't seen that at all. He's been going on both sides."

Sommer says he and the American Center for Law and Justice are still discussing a lawsuit against LCC for canceling the class without telling him.

January 24, 2011, Kezi

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