Ignorance or Islamophobia
A recent book review by Orange County Register senior editorial writer Steven Greenhut praised a book that argues that the minority of Muslim extremists who are involved in terrorism are not a deviation from, but rather a "natural result of following the actual teachings of Muhammad and the Quran" ["Islam, without blinders," Commentary, June 11].
Such a conclusion reflects either a distressing ignorance about Islam or, more worrisome, an unrepentant Islamophobia.
No religion should bear the responsibility of the actions of an extremist few who twist its teachings. No religion should be judged through a selective reading of its scripture. In every scripture, extremists can find justification for their acts. Verses from the Bible were manipulated by extremists to justify the Crusades, the killing of hundreds of thousands of Eastern Christians and Muslims, the Inquisition, the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans, the blessing of German Nazi soldiers, apartheid in South Africa, the Catholic-Protestant pogrom cycle in Europe, the displacement of Palestinians and the bombing of abortion clinics.
Muslims do not judge Christianity or Judaism by those acts, but rather by the message of peace and justice taught by Moses and Jesus. Similarly, Islam should be judged by its message of justice and equality as followed by most of its 1.3 billion followers.
Muslims' relationship with other people is based on peace, mutual respect, cooperation, justice and kindness as guided by Quranic verses such as, "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256); and "O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of God, is the best in conduct." (49:13); and "God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just." (60:8)
Islam forbids wars of aggression and, like Christianity, sets strict conditions for just warfare. Those conditions are limited to self-defense or removing injustice against other people. The Prophet Muhammad said: "Do not kill women or children or noncombatants and do not kill old people or religious people (he also mentioned priests, nuns and rabbis). Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees and do not poison the wells of your enemies."
Islam's long history of tolerance speaks for itself. After more than 14 centuries of Muslim rule over the Middle East, tens of millions of Christians still share the same towns and villages with Muslims, in mutual brotherhood and respect. The rare exceptions have impacted all religious communities, equally. Prophet Muhammad said: "Whoever harms a Christian or a Jew, it is as if he has harmed me."
If Islam's goal is to kill or convert non-Muslims, then why is it that after over 700 years of Muslim rule, India is still 80 percent Hindu? Or why is it that Jews fled the European persecution of many centuries to live with Muslims in Andalusian Spain and North Africa in what they described as the "Golden Age of Judaism"?
If the teachings of Islam are so violent and evil, then why is it the fastest-growing religion in the West as well as the rest of the world? Why have hundreds of thousands of peaceful Westerners chosen Islam as their new religion, about two-thirds of them women?
There must be something other than its "viewing of non-Muslims as enemies that are to be treated without any rights," as Greenhut would like us to believe.
Maybe it is Islam's stress on the brotherhood of all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. Maybe it is Islam's struggle for justice and equality for all. Maybe it is Islam's balance, spirituality, simplicity, humility and tolerance.
Hussam Ayloush is Executive Director of the Southern California office of the Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Anaheim