As-Salāmu `Alaykum. I’ve been thinking a lot these days about Islam. I attribute it to the revolution in Egypt and an extremely throught-provoking post by one of the first people I blog-met on WordPress.
Of course, the title itself pushed my buttons. I immediately (and foolishly) thought, “Oh Lord, here we go. Another person who probably has never even seen a Muslim, let alone talk to one.” He corrected my assumption via the Comment Section. He stated that he had Muslim friends and discussed Islam in depth with them. He also lives in an area that has a large Muslim community. This intrigued me. From our discussion, I got a clearer view of his position. He is distrustful of the religion itself, the radical groups. He also believes that if backed against the wall by an extremist Imam here in America, Muslims will side with the Imam.
I’m still trying to digest that last stance. I have traveled to Islamic countries, and I have Muslim friends and coworkers. I am in a city that has the largest number of Afghanis outside of Afghanistan. Based on my experiences, I have been looking at my own beliefs about this.
As a liberal, of course, I can only speak for myself. Why do I defend Islam? I do because of the constitutionally granted right of Freedom of Religion in the First Amendment. I want to remind people that Freedom of Religion does not just cover flavors of Protestantism. Even if you’re a Satanist, you are protected and are able to exercise your religion. American Muslims living here have every right to practice their religion, provided they do not break any laws. They can build mosques and community centers.
Before JFK was elected, some did not trust him because he was Roman Catholic. They believed that he would be influenced by the Pope in his presidential duties. Even back then, people needed to be reminded of our basic freedom here.
Fast forward to Obama. Same thing, different religion. Since 9/11, some Americans are still distrustful of the religion. And the possibility that the POTUS could be Muslim? Enter fear, rage, et. al. I believe that among many, one small reason why they were both elected was because of the reminders of religious freedom in this country.
I have friends, acquaintences, and coworkers who are Muslim. Only a handful of them I know do the daily prayers. Most of them drink alcohol. One is a lesbian. Most are what I call “Ramadan Muslims.” Only during Ramadan would you know they were Muslim. They get super cranky during that time, too. It’s definitely the not being able to eat from sun up to sun down thing.
Aside from the religion, I don’t see a difference. They’re just trying to make it through life like I am and you are. I hear the same stories. Boss is working them to death. Significant other is irritating the hell out of them. Kid is acting up in class. Kid’s college tuition is killing them. It’s the same stuff we all go through.
I’m not naïve. I don’t believe that everything is roses and cupcakes with this religion. The radicals, especially the Imams are what give this religion a bad name. The extremists ruin everything. The “leaders” shoulder a lot of the blame. They use Islam and manipulate the poor and marginalized to satisfy their own blood lust.
I watched an HBO documentary Terror in Mumbai. The producers were able to retrieve recorded phone conversations between the radical leaders and the pawns carrying out their orders. It had to be one of the most disturbing, infuriating documentaries I have ever watched. The pawns were a group of young men – in their early 20s. It was so obvious that they were impoverished and naïve. They were so fascinated by the doors in the hotel that opened and closed automatically. The leaders had to keep them focused on their goal. In the last conversation, the terrorist was about to kill as many people as he could, but he knew he would be shot by the police. He asked the leader to pray that God would accept his sacrifice. He kept asking, but the leader was trying to keep him on task. Eventually, the leader prayed that God would accept him into heaven. Then, you hear gunshots.
These radical leaders and Imams are the problem, as they are the catalyst. They have found their way to the United States. In my conversation, the author of that post believes that these radical Imams, “at the earliest point of subversive activity, must leave immediately.” It makes me ask, what is subversive activity? Where are we drawing the line? A rally where the speaker supports terrorists? Approving of the killing of infidels? As much as I’d love to donate my frequent flier miles to an extremist Imam for the first flight out of here, I am reminded again of our freedoms. Freedom of speech. Should someone who is here legally, let alone a citizen (born or naturalized) be deported for what they say? Unless they are explicitly saying, “You. Go blow up the nearest Safeway,” don’t they have a right to say what they want? Plus, what good would it do since we have the internet? Their message can be relayed from anywhere on the planet. Ugh. I wish I knew what to do with the hardliners already here.
This is what I do know. I’m not going to hate or distrust those who follow Islam because of the radicals and extremists. I know, I know, the numbers. Even if a tiny percentage of the 1.5 billion followers are radicals, that is still a lot of people. Sorry. I still can’t negate the millions of decent, normal followers based on the thousands of radicals.
I believe the root of the problem lies with religion in general. I think we took something beautiful (God) and completely screwed it up with religion. So many horrific things have been done in the name of religion (e.g., the Inquisition, war).
I know people find comfort in their faith so I don’t want to bash it. We’re all muddling through this thing called life. If something helps you get through it, more power. I just hate it when it’s used to exclude, hate, and even kill other people.
But that’s for another post, another day.