Thursday, July 22, 2010

Extremism vs Islam
How the radical extremists are so far outside the teachings of Islam and what we moderates should do about it

Asalaamu Alaikam wa ramatullahi wa barakatu.

As I was reading the news this morning, I came across an article about a young revert Muslim (I am assuming he is a revert, based on his very non-Arabic sounding name), and his desire to join the militant extremist group, Al Shabab, and a need to imply that the South Park creators should feel that many Muslims wish to do them harm. Like any sensible, moderately-minded Muslim (do not translate this as meaning "liberal," for I am a far cry from being a liberal!), I was upset and sickened by what I was reading. This young man (who is only 20 years old), I couldn't help but think, has been led astray by those oh-so-very-active extremists, those very extremists who I speak so adamantly against every chance that I get. Like so many others, he fell in with clearly the "wrong" group of "Muslims." And look where it has landed him (to see where it has landed him, here's a link to the article: Man Behind "South Park" Terror Threat Arrested - CBS News).

I am tired of this stupid line of thinking (yes, I said stupid), that Muslims must "defend" the Prophet Muhammad (saws) any time someone draws a picture of him (saws). Exactly what are we "defending" here, when we act violent and ignorant? Are we defending the beautiful teachings of Islam, and our Beloved Prophet (saws), who taught love and mercy, or are we instead defending a stereotype of Muslims being bloodthirsty and vengeful people? When we lash out, we are doing nothing more than proving people "right" about us. Many will nod their heads in affirmation, saying, "See?? I told you those 'Muzlems' were violent people! And 'Izlam' is a violent religion!" Great. Real great. Nice going, people.

Extremism and violence have no place in Islam. The fact that so many Muslims are violent and extreme cannot and should not be representative of the religion. This is the only religion that is currently graded based upon the actions of some crazy psychos. No one thinks for a moment that a serial killer's Christian upbringing caused him to kill over and over again. Everyone understands that his (or her) actions are not indicative of Christianity. The fact that people do not think this, by the way, has nothing to do with a religion based bias. It has everything to do with the fact that people know more about Christianity than they do about Islam.

Muslims have this problem of wanting to just keep themselves. Many are only friends with other Muslims, and never branch out, and try to make friends with non-Muslims. They never invite non-Muslim neighbors over to their houses that they are perhaps on a first name basis with, while at the same time, they will invite a complete stranger over, just because they happen to be Muslim. People think that it's just "safer" this way, being with "your own kind." This is stagnation, and nothing more. If you never ever reach out to others, how will they know anything at all about Islam? Maybe your neighbor is dying to ask a Muslim questions about things going on in the world today, hoping to get a clear answer, but you never give them a chance. You could be the one person to help them to understand that Islam is not a violent religion, and that it teaches the same things that Christianity teaches (love your neighbor, fight for justice for mankind, have good morals, worship God, etc)

If you are like me, and are sick and tired of hearing about Muslims like this young man, then do something about it. Start talking to people in your community, and not just the ones who pray five times a day, wear a scarf on their head, and abstain from alcohol and pork. Talk to everyone. And talk about the tough issues, the really tough issues. You know the ones. The ones that you are just hoping and praying that no one asks you about. The ones like, "so, are Muslim women oppressed?" Or, "are all Muslims terrorists?" Stop dreading this questions, and start encouraging them. Become a voice of moderation, and let people know that extremism is not Islam. Teach them the beautiful examples from the life of Muhammad (saws). Let them know that no where does it say that a non-Muslim is to be threatened or murdered for telling off color jokes about any of the prophets of Islam (yeah, we tend to forget that there were others. Shouldn't we feel upset when we see Jesus being parodied? It is hypocrisy to "defend" one and not the other!).

There are so many hadiths that tell of the kindness and gentleness that our Prophet (saws) displayed to his fellow man (not just Muslims, but all). Even people who were not particularly nice, or did horrible awful things, Muhammad (saws) showed kindness and respect. Think of the lady with the garbage. Every day she threw it at Muhammad (saws). The one day that she did not, he (saws) went to check on her. She was so moved by this, she accepted Islam! Many people came to Islam because of the beautiful examples of Muhammad (saws).

Now, this is not to say that we should only be nice to people in an attempt to get them to accept Islam. I just don't support that at all (there are those "da'ies out there who would tell you that your whole life's purpose should be to make the most aggressive dawah possible, and I just find that a bit irrational). Rather, be kind to people because you want them to think good of you, and of Islam. Do not listen to the extremists who say things like, "who cares what they think?" We should care what they think. We should be working hard to show them that media sources like Fox News are wrong about us, completely wrong. And we should help them to understand that those extremists are not only in the minority (yes, it's hard to believe, but they are!), but they are also preaching something that goes against the core teachings of Islam.

Extremism is not Islam. It has no place in Islam. There are hadiths that support this. Nowhere will you find a hadith that tells you to be extreme in your religion, and to be aggressive in your daily dealings with people. No ayah of the Quran will say that justice only applies to some, and others deserve nothing but abuse. Allah does not tell us to disrespect everyone but those who believe in the exact same things that we believe. On the contrary, we are told to be good, moral, upstanding people, and to preach with kind words, and to debate (not argue!) in a manner that is best.

Just think of what could possibly happen if we all worked hard to spread the word that extremists are not the spokespersons for Islam! Just think! Perhaps the young man that I made mention of at the beginning of this article, would have heard something long before he became Muslim. And then he would have known, after becoming Muslim, that extremists were not telling him the right things. He would have already known to stay away from them. Just think!

Extremism is not Islam. And extremists are not my brothers and sisters. What they preach is hatred and intolerance. I cannot and will not have that being preached as the "message of Islam." Because I know that it is not.

Please join me in actively speaking out against these extremists. Stop hiding in the shadows, sticking with your "own kind." Humans are our own kind, regardless of their religion. Extremist forms of Islam need to be stopped, before another young Muslim is led astray.