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TCU Magazine Feature

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We teach peace

By Yushau Sodiq
Associate professor of religion

After the events of Sept. 11, a student said to me: "I cannot accept that Islam is a peaceful religion. All that I have read and seen confirms to me that Islam represents evil and Muslims are violent people, terrorists. Can you explain to me why this is so?"

He and those who share his views are wrong and lack proper understanding of Islam. Their sweeping generalizations accuse all Muslims for the sins of the few. As David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh do not represent good Christians, likewise Osama bin Laden and his group are not good ambassadors of Islam and Muslims.

Islam is a religion of peace, mercy and love that should not be associated with any act of violence. It teaches peace with oneself and with one's neighbors. Yet while some wonder why some of its members occasionally practice violence, Muslims are peace-loving people who care and respect others. Islam means a total submission to Almighty God.

Islam is not a new faith but the same truth that God revealed to all previous prophets: Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus. It is a way of life and invites humans to believe in one true God, the God of Judaism and Christianity. A Muslim is one who surrenders to God.

Islam requires all Muslims to pray five times daily. At prayer times, Muslims stop everything and communicate with God; ask Him for help and guidance. Daily prayers are one of the distinctive aspects of Islam. Muslims fast in the month of Ramadan from dawn to sunset for 29 or 30 days. Fasting means abstinence from food, drink, smoking and sexual relationship during the day. Fasting teaches self-discipline and spirituality. Islam also ordains that rich Muslims give 2 1/2 percent of their wealth annually to the poor. This is Zakat; it is a duty.

Muslims who are healthy and financially capable are required to perform a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca once in their life. This is to remember God and attend an annual universal gathering of all Muslims. At Mecca, they meet, share ideas, renew their faith and strengthen their relationship with one another.

Further, Islam teaches moral values and requests its adherents to be upright people who enjoin good deeds and discourage evil acts. They must not harm themselves or others. Harming others constitutes a sin in Islam. Any act of terrorism receives strong condemnation. Killing and hurting innocent people have no justification whatsoever.

The Qur'an 5:32 states: "Whosoever kills a human being other than (in punishment) for manslaughter or causing corruption on earth, it shall be as if he had killed all humanity. And whosoever saved the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all humanity."

Human lives are sacred and must be respected. Islam condemns terrorism and prescribes harsh punishment for those who practice it. They must be brought to justice. However, the reasons for terrorists' vicious activities should be sought and addressed to prevent future attack. To stop terrorism, the world needs to unite behind a cohesive humanity and seek a truly universal peace among all humankind. If we wish to experience peace, we must provide it to others.

Terrorists often link their violent acts to Jihad, but Jihad in Islam means making effort, striving and struggling to be upright, to fulfill one's duties toward oneself and one's society, and to defend one's faith and country if attacked by an enemy. Jihad is struggling against evil inclinations within oneself and fighting against tyranny and oppression.

There are 1.2 billion Muslims (not Moslems) in the world today and six to eight million of them live in the United States. Muslims are our neighbors, though many of us do not bother to know them. Muslims often keep to themselves, but it is time for them to get involved in their communities.

Non-Muslims should free themselves from the bad images of Islam and Muslims that the media has fed them. Most of these images are erroneous. Many Americans believe all Arabs are Muslims, but that is not true. There are Arab Jews and Christians. Arab Muslims represent less than 18 percent of the total Muslim population in the world. There are more Muslims in Nigeria than in Egypt. Also, there are 15 million Christians living in the Arab world. Some Arab leaders marry Christians. Yasser Arafat and Anwar Sadat are examples. Muslims, Jews and Christians are neighbors and they have to live together peacefully.

Perhaps some Muslims are grieved because of America's unlimited and unfair financial and military support for Israel and for uncritical support of non-democratic governments in the Arab world. This grievance does not justify any terrorist attack on Americans. However, Americans should not direct their anger against innocent Muslims or Arabs. Only the criminals should be punished.

Professor Sodiq has taught at TCU since 1992. He earned a master's degree in Islamic law from the Islamic University in Medina, Saudi Arabia, and a doctorate in religious studies from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. E-mail him at y.sodiq@tcu.edu.

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