His Name: Jihad. His Message: Peace

November 29, 2009

Author: Duke Helfand

Source: The Los Angeles Times


Jihad Turk -- clean-shaven and youthful -- is telling an interfaith audience that the prophet Muhammad traces his lineage to Abraham, the biblical patriarch. 

Turk explains to the crowd of mostly Christians and Jews that Muslims also revere Jesus and Moses as prophets, and that Islam cherishes life. 

But some in the Pepperdine University audience are skeptical. One man wants to know why so many Muslims are "willing with perfect ease to kill," as he puts it, drawing brief applause. 

A woman later needles Turk about what she views as Islam's suppression of women. "You guys really need a good PR firm," she tells him. 

Without missing a beat, Turk responds: "If you know of one, let me know."< ;br />
U.S. Muslims are struggling mightily these days to win over a wary public. In Los Angeles, part of that task falls to the 38-year-old Turk, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California, one of the region's most influential mosques.

Earnest and doggedly optimistic, Turk is an unflappable ambassador for an often embattled faith -- a man whose American upbringing gives him a foothold in two sometimes colliding worlds