Department of English

Fall 2010 Edition

A Refreshingly Positive Angle on Islam

Natalie Harr
Argumentative 1010 1st Place
Professor: Kyle Bishop

In 2004, a Muslim by the name of Pete Seda published a pamphlet entitled Islam Is. Covering the basic beliefs of Islam, Seda was no doubt hoping to vanquish some of the understandably rising fears involving Muslims of late. He stated, "It often seems that all governments need enemies to fuel the military and to bring about national unity. During the Cold War, our enemy was 'Communism.' Today, Muslims are finding themselves in the crosshairs" (24). Seda truly illustrates the abounding prejudice against Islam and subtly points out the common factor amid blind prejudice: fear. America was indeed attacked on September 11th by a group who call themselves Muslims, but it is wrong to allow fear to lead to isolation, discrimination, and animosity towards the innocent followers of Islam. The bigotry and ignorance that occurred during the cold war, as Seda points out, must not be repeated. To prevent the same mistake from happening again, questions can be asked, such as: Is there really prejudice associated with the name of Islam? What are the main causes of this discrimination? What do the Muslim people really believe?

How much prejudice is being placed on Muslims is difficult to say exactly, but cases of bigotry and injustice certainly are occurring both locally and nationally. One such case involved a nineteen-year-old American woman whose parents were Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, and who is a Muslim herself. This woman filed a complaint against McDonald's who, according to her, told her she probably would not be able to wear her hijab (head scarf) if they hired her (Warikoo). Although offensive and discriminatory, this is only a small local example. Terry Jones, a pastor from Gainsville, Florida, took his prejudice to a more national level when he advertised his plan to burn over 200 copies of the Koran on September 11. His reasoning was to mark the anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers. In response, many protests sprang up all over the world, including Afghanistan, during which one man was even shot to death (Jones). These are just a few cases to be sure, but they wrongfully target and affect all Muslims who are now being adversely dragged into this cage of isolation and intolerance.

What has caused so many to fall into narrow-mindedness and discrimination in a country where individual freedom is usually so proudly offered? The unifying fear after September 11th was simply waiting to be sparked in the minds of America's people. Within the past month alone articles have appeared in prestigious newspapers with phrases like, "[President Bush] continually telling us that Islam was a religion of peace has set us back years in the war against Islam" (Logan), and "The Pakistani immigrant who tried to detonate a car bomb . . . warned that Americans can expect more bloodshed at the hands of Muslims" (Hays, Neumeister). Now a powder keg of negativity, the twisted reports of the media are still continuing today.

Without a broader view, many Americans are being lead to subconsciously believe that Islam must be a violent sect. As Pete Seda states, "Within true Islamic Fundamentalism one would never see crimes against humanity, heinous acts of hatred, political killing, terrorism, oppression, religious extremism, or zealotry…All of these acts are clearly forbidden in Islam" (23). Islam is not a religion of violence and oppression. According to Seda, anyone who acts violently is not "within true Islamic Fundamentalism" (23). Therefore, rationalizing abhorrent murders or acts of violence in the name of Islam is a gross falsehood.

Perhaps another fear lies not in what Muslims believe, but in the threat their rising numbers pose. In the year 2009, Muslims made up 1.66 billion of the world's population ("Muslim Population Worldwide"). According to Dr. Kholoud Al-Qubbaj a Muslim and professor at Southern Utah University, Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe and the United States (Qubbaj). Power in numbers is an unnecessary fear, for Muslims do not have an authoritative throng of people heading the religion. Qubbaj also wrote,

There is no ecclesiastic leadership in Islam. The holy Quran, and the Hadith (prophet practices) are the main source of [sic] any Muslim to refer to. There is no group leaders to lead the religion…Because in Islam the Quran, is the final god [sic] words to humans in all life matters, it will be applicable for all times. [emphasis added] (Qubbaj).

According to Dr. Qubbaj, the only source for leadership in Islam is God, who according to Muslim belief has given a guide to his people in the Koran. Practices that teach Islam's people to be self-sufficient and humble followers of God will benefit America today by producing respectable citizens. America will stamp out this opportunity if Muslims are not allowed the freedom to worship as they choose without hostility and prejudice. American freedoms so proudly defended with war when America was attacked on September 11th are being denied some of its people. Now an unnecessary war is waging, and on America's own soil, a war of bigotry, discrimination, and injustice against fellow countrymen to punish them for crimes with which they were so unjustly associated with.

This warped understanding of Muslims can be vanquished if light is shed on more than one side of Islam. Who are the Muslim people and what do they believe? Referring to Islam, the Harper Collins encyclopedia says, "The ethos of Islam is in its attitude toward Allah: to His will Muslims submit; Him they praise and glorify; and in Him alone they hope… at the individual level, [Jihad] denotes the personal struggle to be righteous and follow the path ordained by God." ("Islam"). According to this simple text alone, Muslims are submissive followers of God. Rather non-threatening so far. In fact, that is what a good Christian is, a humble follower of God. Many parallels exist between Islam and Christianity that are so conveniently overlooked or misconstrued.

Stephan Bates, who was once a Christian himself, converted to Islam and later founded a web site entitled Islam for Today. Bates teaches that Muslims believe in the doctrines taught by Jesus Christ, claiming him as God's prophet rather than his son. However, the principles of humility, service, and peace remain the same in both Christianity and Islam. Muslims also believe the Bible to have originated from God. Believing it to have since been tainted by men, it is not used as the basis of the religion. All the same, it is indeed recognized in Islam as mostly true (Bates). Because of the belief in the Bible's impurity, Islam teaches that a prophet named Muhammad was given a pure form of scripture directly from God, which is known as the Koran (Bates). Perhaps ignorance to what the Koran actually teaches is another frightening aspect of Islam. However, the Koran's teachings, which are very similar to those of the Bible, are readily available for anyone to read and need not be feared (Bates). True believers of Islam found their lives on the teachings of the Koran and deserve respect for living good morals with such devotion.

Fear leads many people to isolate, discriminate against, and hate Muslims, the majority of which are admirable and exemplary people. Most Muslims are devout and worthy people whose beliefs, which are very similar to Christianity, center on submissive humility to God and adherence to the teachings of the Koran. Despite these similarities, Muslims worldwide are facing discrimination and narrow-minded prejudice. Because ignorance will cause many to follow a well-paved path that doesn't require change or innovation, Muslims are not the only people facing intolerance. The answer to solving all misunderstanding lies in the opening of the mind to welcome more knowledge and truth to replace ignorance and deception.

Works Cited
Al-Qubbaj, Kholoud. E-mail interview. 23 Oct. 2010.
Bates, Stephan. "The Beliefs and Laws of Islam." Islam For Today. N.p., 17 June 2002. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.
Hays, Tom and Larry Neumeister. "Times Square Bomber Sentenced, Warns of More Attacks." The San Francisco Examiner. The San Francisco Examiner, 5 Oct. 2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.
"Islam." Reference.com. Harper Collins, 2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.
Logan, Christopher. "The Bitter Truth: 'Moderate' Muslims are not Coming to the Rescue." Right Side News. Right Side Publications, 5 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.
"Muslim Population Worldwide." Islamicpopulation.com. N.p., 27 August 2009. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.
Seda, Pete. Islam Is…. Ashland: Al Haramain Foundation, 2002. Print. 23 Oct. 2010.
"Terry Jones (Pastor)." The New York Times. New York Times Company, 10 Sept. 2010: 1. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.
Warikoo, Niraj. "Muslim Woman Denied Job at McDonald's Files Complaint." Weblog of Dawud Walid. N.p., 13 Oct. 2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.