February 18, 2015
In Iraq and Syria, the terrorist organization ISIS is
carving out its domain with cruelty and terrorism. Journalists David Foley,
Kenji Goto and Steven Sotloff and humanitarian aid workers Alan Henning, David
Haines and Kayla Mueller were all beheaded in acts of brutality and
belligerence; Muath al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian pilot, was burned alive in a cage.
And most recently, 21 Christians were beheaded. Their deaths were recorded in a
video entitled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross.”
Members of ISIS are mentally ill, vicious, sadistic
men and women who will likely burn in hell. But out of the approximately 1.6
billion Muslim people in the world, violent extremists such as those in ISIS
are a minority.
All this to say that the current events involving
extremists in the Middle East have nothing to do with Islam. The events and the
resulting false perception of Muslims are caused by violence — something that
is ingrained in the primal instincts of humanity, not within religion.
For a Change
In a CNN interview, Egyptian author
Tawfik Hamid said although violence is found in other religions, these other
religions have been reformed, whereas Islam has not. Arsalan Iftikhar, an
international human rights lawyer, responded by saying every Muslim
organization in America “has condemned ISIS in public statements.”
“We stand on street corners with bullhorns for the
rest of our lives and we condemn terrorism, but for some people it’s never
enough,” Iftikhar said. “They’re going to only focus on the minuscule extremist
minority and conflate that to represent all 1.6 billion Muslims.”
Education of the uniformed and conversation with those
willing to listen are the available actions since reformation has already taken
place. Non-Muslims and the media continuously call upon the people of Islam to
condemn this violence, as if Muslims are responsible for acts of terrorism.
According to Business Insider, esteemed members
of the global Muslim community wrote a letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the
leader of ISIS, rebuking his interpretation of Islam by saying it is “forbidden
in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors and diplomats; hence it is forbidden
to kill journalists and aid workers.”
Yet it remains that many non-Muslims believe Muslims
are like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, as if the religion is defined by violence, and even
supports such acts.
Executive director of UH’s Gulen Institute Dogan Koc
said “having (violence) as a religious establishment… will not continue for a
long time.” Koc said a religion that is inherently violent will not survive.
People can buck against this idea, but the fact of the
matter is that at the spiritual core of any religion is a desire for peace and the
means to work towards harmony.
“If you were someone living in the 12th century or
13th century, you would say the same thing for the crusaders, for the
Catholics, ” Koc said.
“Crusaders looted churches (in Byzantium). Christian
crusaders looted churches because it was an Eastern church. You will see
mosaics of Jesus, and some of them were taken (by crusaders) because they were
The Crusades are but one example of the violent acts
that have been undertaken in the name of Christianity. Religious studies
professor Christian Eberhart said a lot of conquering and genocides have taken
place by Christians.
“The colonial period… that was basically Western
Christianity, they started to conquer the rest of the world,” Eberhart said.
“This continent was born out of two genocides. The ones who committed these
genocides, against the Native American population and African-Americans, were
Non-Muslim commentators have said these historical
events are ancient history and therefore not applicable to the conversation.
Christianity isn’t considered a violent religion because those events occurred
in a more barbaric time.
One day the terrorist acts of ISIS will be ancient
history. If history doesn’t matter when one is talking about Christianity, then
it technically shouldn’t matter when one is talking about Islam.
Islam is not a violent religion; if it were, then so
would be every other religion known to man — as well as almost any ideology.
The Bad Guy?
Proximity to recent events is the true instigator of
“Usually there is a certain group … that didn’t have
good (public) perception. I have a friend who told me, ‘Until a new group will
come, Muslims will be the bad guys,’” Koc said. “Before Muslims it was the
Soviets … then you have Asians and Germans … so usually you have an
identifiable certain group that does not have a good perception in the general
Anger can arise at the thought of bigotry and
ignorance. Yet the people of Islam continue to work on focusing their energies
on acts to promote peace.
Teaching and learning junior Wajiha Jawed, who is the
walkathon manager for the UH Muslim Student Association, said that Islam, like
any religion, “is a way of life that encourages people to become the best
versions of themselves.”
Eberhart said a study was done recently in which
participants were asked if they were afraid of Islam and of Muslim people. The
result of the study was that the majority of participants did feel fear or
discomfort towards Islam.
“A secondary finding is that the discomfort was
articulated mostly in areas where people had pretty much no contact with
Muslims and didn’t know anything about Muslims,” Eberhart said. “It was the
least articulated in areas where people knew Muslims and had contact with
Koc said he has “hope for the future,” and said when
more intimate interactions between Western Christians and Muslims happen, “you
will see better perception.”
Religions are based upon peace. All acts of violence
and negativity stem from the raw egoism of humanity.
In Matthew 5:39 of the Bible, Jesus says, “But I tell
you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn
to them the other cheek also.”
“The last prophet of Islam Prophet Muhammad (peace be
upon him) was even kind to people who treated him terribly,” Jawed said.
Spirituality works on the side of good and justice;
don’t turn your hearts away from those who love peace, regardless of your