Times of Youth: How would you describe your work to someone who has never known about it?
Dr. Bilal Philips: It depends on what you mean by my work. If by my work you are referring to my current main focus, the Islamic Online University, it is a University available on the Internet fundamentally Sharia based, which using English medium, teaches the basic Sharia courses normally taught in classical Arabic Universities. It has additional modern courses, which I feel a Sharia graduate should also know to be able to effectively utilize his or her discipline in the Muslim community. So, I added to the curriculum the areas of counseling, teacher training, psychology, management, Islamic banking and finance, IT as well as other areas. We are also offering degrees in Education, Psychology, and Islamic Banking and Finance, all taught from Islamic perspectives. Furthermore, I have made university education accessible at the lowest possible price cost for students globally. Students do not pay tuition fees. They only have to pay between $60 and $150 per semester according to the Gross national product (GNP) of their home countries. We also have a free diploma in which 1,95,000 of our 2,00,000 are enrolled. Thus, only 5,000 of our students are enrolled in our accredited bachelors programs and actually pay registration fees.
Times of Youth: At what age did you start preaching? Has your family always been supportive of this choice of yours?
Dr. Bilal Philips: I accepted Islam at the age of 25, so that’s when I started. In terms of family support, my family has always been supportive. I didn’t have any problems. They respected my choice of Islam and my parents later converted to Islam also.
Times of Youth: What would you say to those who think Islam degrades women by keeping them behind the veil?
Dr. Bilal Philips: I would say that they are probably mixing up Muslims with Islam. It is true that some Muslims may oppress women by imposing the cultural veil and what’s connected to it. However, the teachings of Islam do not oppress women by veiling. If by veiling we mean the most common veil which most Muslim women wear (head scarf and loose outer garment), this form of veiling is for the protection of women, not for their oppression. The nuns of Christianity, and females in orthodox Judaism, and in all the major religions we know about, cover themselves up. Exposing the physical charms of a woman is exposing her to physical danger, abuse and harm. The veiling instructions in the Quran for women to cover themselves is stated as being for her to be known for chastity and to protect her from physical harm.
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