Since the September 11 attacks, Muslims the world over have joined in an almost unanimous condemnation of terrorism. They decry such acts in the name of Islam as a gross perversion of a peaceful religion. This is absolutely true. However, there are some who have gone on record saying that the notion of Islam as a religion of peace is an apalling falsehood.
Samuel P. Huntington in his book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, wrote: "Some Westerners, including President Bill Clinton, have argued that the West does not have problems with Islam but only with violent Islamist extremists. Fourteen hundred years of history demonstrate otherwise." Statements such as these demonstrate not only a profound ignorance of Islam, but a fallacious logic; that the sins of Muslims define what Islam is.
For example, columnist Rod Dreher wrote in the National Review, "Anyway, if one grants, for the sake of argument...that the Koran doesn't endorse honor killings [of women], so what? Clearly very many Muslims believe honor killings are Islamic doctrine, and act on those beliefs..." Therefore Islam endorses the murder of women? Hogwash. The Koran condemned the practice of female infanticide in no uncertain terms: "When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned for what crime she was killed." (81:8-9) Furthermore, the Koran doles out the severest of punishments for murder (25:68-69). He went on further to say, "Queen Rania [of Jordan]'s dismissal of Muslim behavior that brings discredit upon Islam as un-Islamic brings to mind the bankrupt apologies leftists made during the Cold War for Communism." Thus, Islam is what Muslims do. How illogical. The Ku Klux Klan claims to be devoutly Christian. Can I then claim that Christianity is a racist religion? Of course not.
Later on in his commentary, Mr. Dreher listed numerous examples where Muslims had killed non-Muslims all over the world such as in Sudan, Philippines, Egypt, Nigeria, Palestine. He then goes on to say, "it is unarguable that very many Muslims and their leaders despise non-Muslims, attack us rhetorically in religious terms, and wish to see us die for our infidelity to Allah." This is because, he implies, Islam teaches so. Never mind that, in many of the same conflicts he mentioned, Christians also had killed Muslims. Never mind that, to this day, the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in Muslim hands. Never mind that, under the Constitution of Medina, Jews were given full rights, protections, and religious freedoms as citizens by the Prophet Muhammad. My saying that the sins of Muslims do not reflect true Islam is akin to apologizing for the sins of Communism. Again, fallacious thinking.
"Handsome is as handsome did it..." said Claggart in Herman Melville's Billy Budd. Those who try to define Islam by the actions of some Muslims try to apply this same logic. Islam is, has been, and always will be innocent of the sins committed in its name. Every religion has its violent extremists. However, only Islam gets defined by those extremists. Why? Is it because these extremists are so loud? Perhaps. Or, is it that the peaceful majority of Muslims are not so newsworthy. For example, all Americans, including Muslims, were shocked at the footage of Palestinians celebrating the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. This footage was shown time and time again on CNN and other news broadcasts. However, the footage of Palestinian children lighting candles in Jerusalem for the victims of the attacks was barely shown to the American people. Few, if any, American newspapers reported of the 12 inch-high stack of condolences from Palestinians faxed to the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem. This unbalanced coverage helps to further the stereotypical image of Islam as hateful and intolerant. It is wrong and does all Americans a grave disservice.
On September 13, Jerry Falwell appeared on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" and seemed to suggest that America deserved what happened to it. He also said, "I really believe that the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" He later apologized for his remarks. Yet, no one claimed that Christianity stands for what Mr. Falwell said. No one used Mr. Falwell's remarks as proof of Christianity's intolerance. Similarly, Judaism is never defined by its extremists. It is high time Islam is accorded this same courtesy.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a syndicated columnist with the Independent Writers Syndicate. He is also a physician and resides in Chicago.