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Islam – A Brotherhood of Peace

posting my homework to the wire
"Why does everybody hate Muslims?" my beloved friend Ali asked me during one of our telephone conversations a few months ago. Ali, a native Kashmiri, (Kashmir has been in the grip of a political/territorial struggle between India and Pakistan for decades; two countries that presently stand on the brink of nuclear war) knows too well the pain of being a Muslim in a world that is growing increasingly intolerant of Islamic people.

The "terrorist" act of September 11 has profoundly added to the suffering of the Islamic nation. With the blame of 9.11 being placed on a Muslim man with an alleged history of terrorism, (though the FBI recently issued a statement admitting that to date they have "not uncovered a single piece of paper" - that would substantiate that this man is indeed responsible) and nineteen of his "followers", also Muslim, many people have amalgamated all Muslims as "terrorists". This sort of homogenous thinking is both obtuse and dangerous, a racism that has created many incidences of hate crimes against Muslims (as well as against people with non-white skin and individuals who wear turbans). These hate crimes include the U.S. government's systematic rounding up and imprisoning thousands of men with Arabic names but no history of criminality.

According to the Qur'an (the word of God that was delivered by the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad), rigorous tests must be undergone before charges of guilt can be brought against someone. (Adi 'Opinion' 11.6.01) This is similar to our own justice system that declares that a person is "innocent until proven guilty". Storming Afghanistan (in search of a man said to be hiding in a cave) without ample evidence of his guilt, and holding men prisoners, without proof of any complicity, clearly indicates a breach of our own judicial contract, and in the eyes of the Islamic world, defies the word of Allah or God.

A 14th century Spanish-Muslim scholar by the name of Shatibi, says that the Qur'an (or Koran) outlines a 'Bill of Rights'. (Adi 'Opinion' 11.6.02) Of the five rights two are worthy of mention in the aforementioned context: "The Right to Life" and the "Right to Economic Liberty". To date thousands of innocent Afghanis have lost their lives in America's "War on Terrorism", yet no trace of the alleged perpetrator has been found amongst them. Their "right to life" has been unmercifully taken form them. With regard to the "right to economic liberty", many Afghanis are wandering without a home, bereft of adequate food and water. The billions of dollars that has been spent on military thus far would have served a much loftier goal of feeding, housing and educating our fellow Afghanis.

We have heard the term jihad, which we are told means "holy war" in the media ad infinitum since 9.11. But this western definition of jihad is incorrect; Islam teaches that war is "unholy". An Arabic term that means "striving", jihad asks that Muslims strive for moral and religious perfection, to strive in the way of Allah. In the article "Jihad Explained" , author M. Amir Ali, Ph.D., states that the words "holy war" transcribed back into Arabic is "harbun muqaddasatu," and that the Arabic words for "war" are "harb" or "qital, that there is no association between "jihad" and "holy war" in the Qu'ran or the Hadith (a book of sayings by the Prophet Muhammad). Jihad is considered one of the duties of every Muslim, the striving to resist temptations that lead one away from god and to embrace those acts that move one towards God.

One way that Muslims do this is by Zakat or the giving of charity to those in need. Islamic law states that an individual's physical needs must be met before higher concerns can flower. Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the religious duties, of every Muslim.

This most important of the 'ibadat or religious duties is the "witness" (shahada), which says "there is no God but Allah". In Islam "one God" means "one people". Indeed, equality of all people, regardless of their religion, race, gender or social standing, considered equal in the merciful eyes of Allah, is a paramount tenet in Islam.

Contrary to the "extremist" treatment that some Muslim women are victims of, Islam grants women a status of equity. The much talked about and feared "Taliban", a fanatical group of Islamic men who were created in part by the C.I.A, raised in refugee camps as boys and later sent to fundamental religious schools, were trained to be radical in thought and action, a serious aberrant from true Islam principles of brotherhood and equality. Up until 1996, before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women were free to work, to go to school, to dress as they wished (but still modestly) and to be out in the world without a male escort. This has all sadly changed now.

Today, more than any other time in history, it is impossible to talk about the religion of Islam without also talking about its politics. Ironically, though there is much disdain for Islam in the West, it is a religion not unlike its monotheistic cousin Christianity. The doctrine of "one God" is central to both of these religions. The scriptures, stories, history and the belief in a creator and a judgment day are all similar themes, and although Muslims believe that Muhammad was the "Seal of the Prophets" or the final prophet of divine truth, they believe that it is Jesus who is coming back on "Judgment Day".

Islam deserves a great deal more than a few short pages to redeem its rightful place in the world. It is perhaps one of the most misunderstood of all religions, the most misunderstood of all peoples. It is a peaceful religion (Islam means submission and peace) with peaceful people. My own Muslim friends show great concern for my welfare, (one of them traveling some four hours to e-mail me after 9.11 to make sure that I was alright), even though their own lives are in peril nearly constantly. Perhaps their love and unity is born out of their love for God, where "every moment is made glorious by the light of Love."






The Love Poems of Rumi: Edited by: Deepak Chopra
Perversions of Islam 08.Jun.2002 09:17


That's why it's so important for Muslims to repudiate the Wahhabi and the reactionary theocracies of the Middle East. It's as if Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson took over Christianity. (Being raised Catholic, I am still leery of all forms of Christianity myself.)

Likewise, pro-Palestinian groups must totally repudiate anti-Semitism. Not every Israeli is pro-settlement, and not every Jew is pro-settlement or pro-Likud.

Appearances of ancient forms of anti-Semitism (such as the blood libel posters that appeared at San Francisco State earlier this year) taint the Palestinian independence movement, and turn off neutral-to-mildly supportive people like myself. Terrorism directed against civilians pushes many people into the pro-Likud camp. Every time I see Israeli civilians killed by a homicide bomber, I lose all respect for Yasser Arafat as a leader, and tend to support Israel's side in the dispute. Yes, it may not be "progressive," but that's the attitude of a *lot* of people. Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade are the biggest obstacle to Palestinian independence.

islam peace 09.Jun.2002 15:47

photoshopping rebel boy

islam peace
islam peace

thread from another article related to this 09.Jun.2002 17:31

peace rebel girl

momo says:

>>and I am still looking through your other linked article, or "your homework" (lol!) and it is very informative. I'm also struck with the historical accounts you give that kind of shed light on similarities between christianity and islam (I'm still too ignorant of jewish history to speculate on how similar it might be): like the Angel Gabriel, and I have read before that there was an Abraham (Abrahim?) and I'm sure there are many other similarities that I am missing here.

>>how would the world perceive it, I wonder, if someone could demonstrate how these two religions could be more similar than different? wouldn't that just blow some minds, seriously!!

I was completely religiously illiterate before I embarked upon this "World Religion" class, having no personal religious experience to speak of.

The likenesses of Islam, Christianity and Judaism are much greater than their differences. Jesus and Muhammad were both prophets that espoused social justice and taught the importance of social action if there were injustices going on. Judiasm strongly stresses the need for individuals to stand up and speak out.

These religions share a lot of the same characters such as the angel Gabriel and Abraham (who was also a prophet that preceeded Muhammad)and was one of the most important to the Muslims.

I think that there is some religious jealousy in the Christians who do not like the idea of The Prophet Muhammad arriving on the scene after Jesus, and being referred to as the final prophet. But Muslims do believe that it is Jesus who is returning on Judgement Day.

Some people think that Islam boasts that there God (Allah) is the only God, yet Muslims recognize that this God is the same as the Christian "God". It's all One God.

The fundamental issues that are present in todays religion go so against the wisdom of the prophets, a real disrespect to their message.

I too think that mending the splits that fundamentalism has sown into religions would have a tremendous and far reaching impact, and that it is without a doubt necessary before we will witness any real change.

I am still a novice at this but it does not take a theologian to understand the importance of healing the wounds that have been inflicted within the worlds major religions in order to move towards world peace.

Islam, like all religion, is dangerous 12.Jun.2002 03:40

Seth Hoffberg Cook@buffalo.com

Since September 11, it has become a much-accepted cliche that the hijackers had somehow "warped" the tenets of the peaceful religion of Islam through their murderous actions. This sentiment was echoed most frequently by Christian leaders, as well as by religious politicians like George Bush; the latter has gone to great lengths, in fact to everything short of daily prayers to Mecca, to prove his sympathy for the Mohametan faith. The hijackers, we've been told, were exceptions, people who "failed to understand" Mohammed's message of peace and tolerance.

Why would Christians be so anxious to defend Islam? Probably because all religions are in the habit of declaring themselves peaceful, even as their followers murder in the name of God. Modern Christian theologians are fond of saying that the more violent passages of the Bible are not meant to be taken literally, and that what is important about Christianity is the overall message of peace and tolerance—not the constant and unceasing threat of the tortures of hell that so characterizes the Old Testament in particular.

But there's no mistaking the "overall message" of Islam. Any sane person who reads the Koran for the first time is bound to come away amazed by its relentless violence and narrow-mindedness. The Great Book has just a few main themes, each of which are repeated on virtually every page. They are:

(1) God will punish the unbelievers.

(2) A believer does not trust or befriend a non-believer.

(3) Anything less than absolute subservience to God will be rewarded with eternal Fire.

(4) God's wrath is expressed through men, i.e., believers.

(5) War is holy and necessary, and the fastest way to paradise.

There's a lot of the same stuff in the Bible, obviously, but the Bible at least has a few famous caveats. The Christian God reserves the right to vengeance for himself: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." But the God of Islam expresses himself through his followers, "the Fire whose fuel is men and stones." There is none of the New Testament emphasis on the universality of sin, and nothing like "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone." In Islam a believer is asked—required even—to cast stones at those who transgress against God.

The juiciest parts of the Koran are in the instructions about killing. The Koran instruction on this matter was probably informed by the experience of early Christians who had to tie their tongues in knots to get around the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" during times of war, or simply when killing seemed like the thing to do. The Koran therefore takes the Bible commandment and loads it up with qualifiers, so that it now reads, "You may not kill any man God has forbidden you to kill, except for a just cause." The commandment is repeated in this form several times throughout the book. In fact, according to the logic of the Koran, if you accept the basic idea that America has been hostile to the Islamic world, then nothing Mohammed Atta et al did made them bad Muslims at all, as far as we can tell.

Pretty much anyone who believes in any God is dangerous and crazy. But the Islamic God, it seems to us, is particularly dangerous and crazy. If I'm wrong, I'd be happy to be educated to the contrary. But you be the judge. Here are some of the highlights of the "peaceful" Koran:

Fighting is an obligatory thing for you, much as you may dislike it. 2:216

If you doubt what we have revealed to Our servant, produce one chapter comparable to it. Call upon your idols to assist you, if what you say be true. But if you fail (as you are sure to fail) then guard yourselves against the Fire whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the unbelievers. 2:23

Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Surely God is high, supreme. 4:34

If you do not go to war, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men. 9:39

They would have you disbelieve as they themselves have disbelieved, so that you may all be alike. Do not befriend them until they have fled their homes for the cause of God. If they desert you, seize them and put them to death wherever you find them. 4:88

If these do not keep their distance from you, if they neither offer you peace nor cease their hostilities toward you, lay hold of them and kill them wherever you find them. Over such men We give you absolute authority. 4:91

You shall not kill any man God has forbidden you to kill, except for a just cause. 17:32

True servants of the Merciful are those who... do not kill except for a just cause. 25:67

As for those who disbelieve in God and his apostles, we have prepared a blazing Fire for the unbelievers. 48:13

Moscow, Russia

People not Religion 12.Jun.2002 15:22

peace rebel girl

Seth -- the main thrust of my article is about the PEOPLE of Islam, not the religion, which are considered one in the same by most people, and clearly are not.

Both the Bible and the Qu'ran contain verses or suras that are heavily punitive, archaic and anti-spiritual. I do not begin to claim to understand the meanings of these two "holy" books, books that also contain some wisdom.

It is true, religion can be dangerous since it is MANmade and subject to great distortion. But if we start screaming that god or allah (one in the same) are crazy and dangerous, we become participants in religious wars.

Seperating People From Their Text 12.Jun.2002 16:38

scott skaweber@aol.com

Peace Rebel Girl,
Separating people from their text, recognizing violence in the text but saying the people are different, sounds a little like NRA nuts saying, "guns don't kill people, people kill people." As pervasive as religious texts are, people strongly connect and align themselves with their holy books. Words create actions. For example, the woman in the Sudan who was very nearly stoned to death in accordance with the Islamic law "Zina", for having sex outside of marriage. (She was raped by her brother in law, but, according to Islamic law, at least four male witnesses must be present in order to confim a rape).
To me the good that people do for others should come from their hearts, their true SPIRITS, not some text, no matter how ancient, no matter what wise words might be present in them and certainly not for some eye in the sky. ("Vaal says welcome the strangers...Vaal says to bash their heads in" Star Trek)
I do AGREE with you, PRG, that we should get to know individuals, not judge them by their religious backgrounds, but I agree more with SETH in his argument that religion has a great capacity for brainwashing and destruction!

extreme thinking 12.Jun.2002 17:54

peace rebel girl

i do not advocate any religion, which i basically say in my previous comment. i clearly recognize the brain washing capacity of any religion.

But to say that all people, in this case Muslims, live and breathe the text of the Qu'ran, is a far reaching, ignorant and empty statement. It is like saying all "Christians" live from the text of their Bible. It just ain't true.

Such narrow thinking is in itself extreme and bias, creating even more separation than already exists.

Religion serves a purpose (beyond the extreme limited abberations that do exist), camaraderie and support being two major reasons, something most people need more of.