tears, shedding light | Finding
the Middle in Middle East
Associate professor of religion
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.