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Islam not inherently violent any more than Christianity is

November 24, 2009

Guest Columnist

Last year, The Marion Star published an opinion piece entitled "Teacup Diplomacy Won't Work," which cited the Qur'an in support of its Islam-is-violent message. I chose not to respond to the article at that time because it seemed to me nothing more than an individual's personal bias against Muslims; but with the recent news surrounding Fort Hood, the Alavi Foundation, and other Islam-related events, I felt it was necessary to respond to its general argument: that Islam is an inherently violent religion.

For the past eight years, multiple political commentators and activists have tried to portray Islam as a heathenish religion of violence, anger and oppression; but most of these opinions have come from those who have spent very little, if any time, with mainstream Muslims and know very little about the actual religion. Sadly, most people do not understand that unless a non-Muslim is well-acquainted with the Middle East, its history, and genuine Islamic thought, no one truly has the ability to accurately cite the Qur'an in support of any argument.

Islam is not a violent religion, and thousands of Muslims all over the world try daily to open the West's eyes to this fact; these same Muslims, though, are often ignored by the Western media in favor of more dramatic and sensationalist stories, such as terrorism and war.

Take, for example, CAIR, the Council for American-Islamic Relations. The organization has attempted numerous times to educate the American public about Islam's true nature, and currently has two campaigns in progress to accomplish this goal: CAIR gives free Qur'ans to anyone who makes a request through their website, and they also provide free information about Prophet Muhammad in DVD or book format. But how many people are familiar with these opportunities?

Information pertaining to Islam's inherently non-violent nature isn't given much publicity. On the other hand, Islam: What the West Needs to Know made quite a stir within certain segments of the media when it was distributed alongside rumors relating to President Obama's "Muslim Faith." A double-standard seems to exist here, as the American people often reject pastors that present a spiteful Christianity, such as John Hagee and Fred Phelps, in favor of those who present a loving faith such as Billy Graham and Joel Osteen. So why do we insist on sensationalizing the fundamentalist minority of Islam when we have problems with those who do the same to Christianity?

Prophet Muhammad (saas), contrary to Western stereotypes, was not a child rapist, warmonger or hater of women. Because of the precedent set by him, Muslims provided a refuge for the Jews that fled Europe when they became the scapegoat of Western Christianity. Because the Muslim Prophet gave women worth and status, he ended the longstanding Arabian tradition of burying infant girls in the desert sand - alive. Because of the all-embracing vision of Prophet Muhammad, the leaders of Mecca chased away the early Muslims due to the pre-Islamic, Arabian intolerance of a message that respected all people regardless of cast, gender, race, and educational background. Prophet Muhammad instituted a freedom of worship that applied to all monotheistic religions of the time, which some Muslims later extended to other, non-Abrahamic faiths, such as Zoroastrianism and certain forms of Hinduism, as they came into contact with them.

Prophet Muhammad taught that war was to be a last-resort option to be used only under unbearable, oppressive circumstances. Any scholar of religion will readily attest to these facts, whether they are earnest Muslims, such as Seyyed Hossein Nasr, author of "The Heart of Islam," or non-Muslims that are well-acquainted with Islam, such as Karen Armstrong, author of "Muhammad: A Prophet for our Time and Islam: A Short History."

In short, don't believe everything you see on the news even if it seems to support a pre-conceived bias, because the news doesn't cover the whole story. As long as the United States is in the Middle East and a knowledge of Islam is relevant to our political culture, the media, whether Fox or CNN, will continue to run newsflash after newsflash about Islamist terrorists and Islam-related violence; don't expect to see a story on a Muslim charity or Muslims in the third world protesting their radical element.

And religious fundamentalism isn't limited to Islam, either; every religion on the planet, even Christianity, has its strands of whackos and violence. We don't accept negative portrayals of Christianity, so why buy into violent portrayals of other religions? Islam is not an inherently violent religion, no matter how many sensationalist stories the media tries to show us.



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