FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina – Leaving army career in 2015, Jason Criss Howk found a new mission in life, i.e. explaining Islam to Americans.
“It just hit me when I got out that Americans know nothing about Islam,” Howk told Fay Observer.
The decision to educate Americans about Islam, Muslims and the Middle East started in 2015 after he received a call from a Pinehurst library.
Speaking at small rural churches across the Southeast, Howk discovered that Americans know very little about Islam.
Howk’s interest in Islam started when he served as an enlisted paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in the 1990s and returned as an officer a decade later.
His efforts expanded in 2017 when he published “The Quran: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation” through Old Stone Press. The book is intended for audiences that have little familiarity with Islam, the Quran or Muslim culture.
And earlier this year, he launched a podcast called “We’re Just Talking About It.”
“Americans had no clue,” Howk said. “All they knew was myths and misconceptions.”
Speaking in small towns, he speaks to Americans who have never heard about Islam or contacted a Muslim.
“I choose to go to skeptical audiences,” he said. “It’s about getting everyday people out to talk in everyday language.”
Howk, who was raised in a Baptist family, said he just wants to set the record straight and help the public understand.
“When I grew up, I didn’t know anything about Catholics,” he said. “You don’t usually study someone else’s religion.”
“I’m not there to defend or degrade,” Howk said. “I just want to answer questions and bring a better understanding.”
Howk said misconceptions about Islam have only grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is not a religion of war,” he said. “It’s just a religion. Start there.”
Some people are receptive to his speeches.
“I’ve had people in their 70s and 80s who say I’ve changed their mind,” Howk said. But others are unwilling to listen.
“I think this is all about education,” he said. “I just want people to understand and make their own decisions… That’s the best we can hope for.”