Dear Wake Forest Alumni,
Many of you recently received a confusing email from Wake Forest alumnus Donald Woodsmall outlining his concerns about an associate chaplain at Wake Forest. Mr. Woodsmall has been waging a campaign against Imam Khalid Griggs since soon after the University hired Imam Griggs as the Associate Chaplain for Muslim Life five years ago.
We have discussed the situation with University administrators, and can share with you that they fully support Imam Griggs and his unwavering efforts to promote a broader dialogue among people of different faith traditions. During previous interactions with Mr. Woodsmall, University administrators and trustees made it clear that they will not give him the platform he wants to hold a debate on Shariah Law. University leaders have found his allegations unmerited and his methods inappropriate. Wake Forest has held many academic events to further understanding of Islam and will continue to do so.
Imam Griggs has written to us from a desire to ease concern among alumni. We share the following message with his permission.
Unfortunately, we may hear from Mr. Woodsmall again. If we do, we encourage you to rally around a good man working to make Wake Forest a better place, as many students have recently done.
2014-2015 Alumni Council Executive Committee
Wake Forest University
Dear Alumni Council Leaders,
With the hope of promoting peace, greater understanding and reassurance, I write to you from a place of personal turmoil and concern for the wellbeing of Wake Forest University’s Muslim students. While Muslim students have been supported on campus, fear and anger have been directed against me, and those who share my faith. I have remained silent in the face of unrelenting, libelous attacks on my character and worldview simply because I felt that the University’s interest would be better served if I refused to dignify these accusations with a response. I now feel it necessary to set the record straight through this open letter and communicate directly with alumni about who I am and what I believe.
When I accepted the position of Associate Chaplain at Wake Forest in 2010, I could not have imagined that Islam, and the ethos of the overwhelming majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, would be so maligned and attacked as it has been. Unspeakable acts of extremist elements accompanied by corresponding media frenzy fuel fear in our society every day. Regrettably, Ms. Clare Lopez, of the Clarion Project, and a Wake Forest alumnus named Donald Woodsmall have distorted my background and character to the point I do not recognize the man they describe, and I feel compelled to respond.
Among the many terms used by Ms. Lopez and Mr. Woodsmall to malign my character and provoke fear, “Shariah supremacist” is one unknown to Muslims for the 1,400 plus years of the history of Islam. I support the constitutional government of the United States and have never advocated, nor would I ever support, violence against it. Shariah Law is simply the laws of Muslim society based on the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah (Prophetic Traditions) of Muhammad ibn Abdullah. Shariah Law covers prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, charity, beliefs, and every aspect of Islamic belief and practice. Actions by groups purporting to enforce Shariah Law through violence are actually carrying out outrages that are the antithesis of Shariah Law.
Another term used by Ms. Lopez and Mr. Woodsmall to suggest I am a danger to society is the term “jihad.” “Jihad” means “struggle” as defined in the Islamic faith but it has been co-opted by terrorists as the justification for their violence. In truth, properly understood, it has a more personal meaning. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, said that the greatest jihad (or “struggle”) was conquering one’s desires to do things that God forbids. The distorted stereotype of jihad as “warfare against non-Muslims” is inconsistent with the Qur’an and Prophetic Traditions on which my faith is based. I want people to know that I have repeatedly and publicly denounced violent acts in the name of Islam and decry a tendency to blame all Muslims for the extremist actions of a few.
I have lived a very public life since embracing the religion of Islam in 1972 as a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Over the years, I have been a member of some large Muslim organizations comprised of members with disparate views. I have been the Imam of the Community Mosque of Winston-Salem since 1984. During this period, neither I nor any member of the mosque has ever been accused, charged or convicted of any anti-government plot, speech, or action in over 30 years. From this position, I have been an active social justice and human rights advocate, locally and nationally.
I hope that what I have shared will ease any fears that I would bring ill against the Wake Forest community I have grown to love. I am grateful for the support I have received from people of all faith traditions in the Wake Forest University community. It is my pleasure to serve the students, faculty, staff and alumni of Wake Forest University in the pursuit of peace and understanding. It is my understanding of Pro Humanitate that we each seek to use our given talents to make the world a better place. And there could be no higher truth in my faith tradition or yours.
Imam Khalid Griggs