The new spiritual leader of the state Islamic Association sees himself as a bridge builder. After the tragedies of Sept. 11, he sees that role as more important than ever.
Mohammad Jamal Daoudi is the new imam, or spiritual leader, of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, and the first imam to work in the new Islamic Center in South Charleston. He took his new job in March.
Born in Damascus, Syria, Daoudi earned a bachelor's degree in Islamic law before he ever felt led to become an imam. "I wanted to be well-educated regarding my religion. I thought I could invest that knowledge in a way to help others. The more you know, the better citizen you can become."
He describes himself as a man with "an open heart and an open mind." He said God led him onto his path to become a spiritual leader and to come to the United States.
In all of his studies, he said, "I can never find violence in my religion. 'Peace is one of the beautiful names of God."
If someone is selecting passages from the Quran and using them to justify violence, that person is misusing religion, he said.
"Some people misquote chapters from the Bible. They take it out of context. Every group has good and bad in it.
"I have a mission. I have a beautiful message to impart. The Islamic community is like other communities," he said.
He points out that Abraham, the patriarch who can be found in the Old Testament, in the pages of the Torah and in the Quran, is the father of three major religions.
Abraham's wife, Sarah, thought she would have no children, so she urged Abraham to have a child by Sarah's "handmaiden," Hagar. Muslims trace their line through Abraham's first son, Ismael.
Sarah and Abraham went on to have a son of their own, Isaac. Jewish people trace their ancestry through Isaac, and Christians pick up the thread there, too.
"We are cousins," Dauodi said.
"First, I want to work with my Muslim community to take care of their needs," Daoudi said. "I want to help them to live their lives in a successful way. Then I want to help the larger community to see us as good citizens. I want to build bridges based on understanding, tolerance, knowledge and brotherhood."
Daoudi believes religious leaders in each faith must take their jobs seriously. "It is the responsibility of the clergy to be good teachers. You harvest what you sow. We have too many beautiful things in common that we believe in. The others are minor differences.