A clearer understanding of the realities of Islam
Issue date: 5/8/08 Section:
Though Islam has been misunderstood for many years, the dislike toward it has been on the increase since the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of American society is its lack of concern over the ignorance displayed-television, movies, music, politicians and even teachers promote racism by condoning and exemplifying it. Who is to blame? The media, whose flat-out false information drives many Americans to believe that Islam is purely evil, seems a likely candidate.
It's common to associate negative qualities with Islam, since barbarism and violence are on the top of the list. Long draping gowns, silken veils, mysterious dark faces and a language of exotic sounds are fair observations. What is not fair, though, are the dark associations that have been attached to them: that their loose, flowing clothing could only mean that they are hiding something, the veils are for concealment and dark faces suggest dark intentions.
Muslim clothing reminds Americans of the past, which seems barbaric in comparison to the modern world. For this, Islam is seen as uncivilized. The quiet and secretive nature, which is apparent in both a Muslim's apparel and his mannerisms, creates suspicion and fear. It may be shocking, but the culprits of American misunderstanding are right next door. Culprit number one remains the media.
The American media is a strong factor in the average American's misunderstanding of Islam merely due to its own function, which is to communicate news of importance. It is only natural that the bad news will be the good news, because tragedy and bloodshed are more stimulating than a quick glimpse of religious volunteers smiling at work.
Islam is, like the many religions of the world, a call for good faith, good works and love. It may seem like a wild statement to the common American, but Islam's message focuses on the submission to God through peace. The contrasting influence is the constant display of Islamic terrorists bombing Jews and Christians on the television screen.
The public takes in the visual depiction of the Muslim and develops a generality about the entire religion. This would be like condemning Christianity for being intolerant on the basis of the existence of extreme fundamental Protestantism, but the media focuses little attention on them. When they do, it is a fleeting memory of a narrowly slanted argument. Only the bad guys are shown, so only the bad guys will be known.
To get to the source of the issue, we need to ignore the mainstream media. We need to read the scripture itself and learn what the religion is truly about. I introduce culprit number two: faulty information.
The Qur'an is the Islamic scripture, transcribed word for word from the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. In it we find the fundamental essence of Islam, which is followed by the vast majority-submission and love.
In opposition to the belief that all Muslims think Christians and Jews are the enemy and are going to Hell, Allah says, "Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians [a now extinct Christian sect from Iraq], whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve" (2: 62).
Here we clearly see that Allah loves all 'people of the book'. Muslims even believe that Christians and Jews will find a reward in the afterlife.
Meanwhile, Jews and Christians alike believe that all religions except their own will lead followers to Hell. Allah even says of his followers, "Lo! You are they who will love them while they love you not" (3: 118). This is similar to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and though the presentation of the language is different, it's accurate to say that the message is the same: to love even those who hate you. This is certainly far from the warcry of a fanatical or sadistic Lord.
In speaking of fighting, Allah says, "And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands and do good to others. Surely Allah loves the doers of good" (2: 195). Clearly, if any Muslim believes he needs to commit mass-murder for Allah, then he is the wrongdoer - not Allah.
Terrorism is the result of compulsion, a vice that the Qur'an directly opposes. In it, we read: "There is no compulsion in religion-the right way is clearly distinct from error" (2: 256). Could it be any clearer? If there is any doubt left in the idea that Islam is a violent religion and prejudiced against Christianity and Judaism, one need only read "And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors" (2: 190). Allah is calling for self-defense, because fighting is allowed only against those that fight you. Even in cases of defense, he commands that Muslims be passive.
To comprehend a religion, examination of the scripture is most important. Any summary, analysis, commentary, book, essay, story, newspaper article, magazine article, pamphlet, news show, documentary, radio show, song, or Web site can be false, corrupted, and/or biased. Any person can be a fool and most are.
Only the scripture, which is the religion, can fully represent its essence. Accordingly, Muslims follow nothing but the Qur'an. They believe it to be the direct word of God, so they preserve its originality. The majority won't even read it in any language other than its original Arabic, and dedicated Muslims of non-Arabic cultures usually learn the language.
With all of this in mind, it is obvious why the text is so important.
Lance Ashoury is a senior majoring in journalism. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of The Equinox.