WASHINGTON, January 7, 2014 — Throughout the world it is commonly asserted that Islam is a religion of violence, misogyny, and a host of other negative attributes.
Such attitudes have been held for centuries, but never entered the mainstream until the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
After the attacks, politicians and media alike have considered it “open season” on the reputation of the religion, and have turned Muslim adherents into cartoon like “evil villains.”
However, the idea that every single Muslim in the entire world promotes or admires violence is false. The idea that most Muslims are in favor of violence or hatred is equally false, and not proven by any measure or statistic ever conducted.
Of course, those who seek to vilify more than a 1.6 billion Muslims in the world do so with a serious disregard for logic or morality. In 2010, Congresswoman Debbie Riddle and Congressman Louie Gohmert put a theory into the public discourse, that there was such a thing as a “terror baby.”
Despite the moral depravity of referring to infants as terrorists, Congressman Gohmert defended the notion and got into a shouting match with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, insisting on the validity of his idea.
Unfortunately, there are real world ramifications of using TV and media to vilify innocent people. According to the Department of Justice, “The percentage of hate crimes motivated by religious bias more than doubled between 2003-06 and 2007-11 (from 10% to 21%).”
Last Spring, the South Law Poverty Center reported “Hate crimes against perceived Muslims, which jumped 50% in 2010 largely as a result of anti-Muslim propagandizing, remained at relatively high levels for a second year in 2011, according to the FBI’s new national hate crime statistics.
The most commonly leveled charge against Muslims is, “Why don’t they condemn terrorism?”
For most Muslims, this is the most frustrating accusation, simply because Muslims have loudly condemned terrorism in every circumstance possible. Unfortunately, for unknown reasons, the media has ignored such condemnations in favor of a different narrative.
After 9/11 for example, every major Muslim organization in the United States condemned the attacks immediately following their occurrence. Most Muslim groups referred to it as an act of terror and the behavior of cowards. Almost every single Muslim country or religious leader in the entire world condemned the attacks within 24 hours.
Last year, the country’s top Muslim organizations: UMAA, ISNA, MPAC, and others all condemned the Boston Marathon bombings within hours of the attack. Regardless of this fact, almost no major media mentioned that Muslims overwhelmingly supported the US and opposed the terrorists in the face of attack.
The second accusation is that the holy book of Islam, the Quran, is a book of violence.
It has become commonplace for un-sourced email chains to decry the Quran with either false quotes or statements taken out of context. In most cases, the Quranic verses cited are actually in reference to allowing individuals to defend themselves. How they are presented, however, is often in the context of a type of plan for world domination that would give comic book writers pause.
Professor Juan Cole, MIT, counters this viewpoint with an analysis of the Quran.
“[Quran] 25:63:The worshippers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, “Peace!”
“The small Muslim community in Mecca faced much harassment and persecution. The ‘ignorant’ in this verse are the militant polytheists who hate the monotheistic message of Islam. What they ‘speak’ to the Muslims is abuse and taunts…
“One name for God in Islam is al-Rahman, or the All-Merciful. This verse chooses that epithet for the divine, it seems to me quite deliberately in this context. The Muslims are the worshippers of the All-Merciful. It is implied that they are expected to exemplify this divine attribute in their own lives, and to show mercy, compassion and forebearance to others…
“So what do they do when the ‘ignorant’ Meccans curse them, taunt them, and harass them?
“They reply, ‘Peace be upon you.’ They wish their tormentors peace, and in so doing they pledge their own nonviolence toward them.”
Professor Cole continues with his analysis of the Quran in a series called Peace and Love in Quran.
Of course, there are many other questions about Islam:
- Aren’t most Muslims terrorists?
- Why are Muslim women subjugated?
- Is it safe for Muslims to live in my community?
- Are Islam and American culture compatible?
- Can Muslims be loyal to the United States?
These and more will be covered in the next parts to this article. Check back soon for the latest updates.