Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘Islam’

Convert or Face Death!

A modern-day exodus is occurring for the Christians of the Northern Iraqi towns of Mosul and Bakhdida.  “Convert to Islam, leave the city or face death” is the threat reportedly given Christians by Islamic State militants, a faction of Sunni Muslims practicing an extremist and intolerant version of fundamentalist Islam.  Christians are fleeing for their lives, leaving their ancestral homes to seek asylum in Irbil, the capital of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan, and in countries throughout the world.  It is said that the Iraqi Christian population once having reached 1 million, may now be no greater than half that size.* After centuries of wreckage caused by hatred and intolerance born from religious fervor occurring in all corners of our globe, we still bear witness to that hatred and intolerance.  We are now no closer to a world safe for people of all religions and faiths than we were in the unenlightened Middle Ages.

What is happening to the Christian population of Iraq is but the more recent horrendous face of religious intolerance.  We need not go far into history to realize that the Crusades and Pogroms of the past are alive and well in the modern era and that religious freedom is still way beyond our grasp.  We have seen:

  • the Muslim slaughter of Hindus  in India and Pakistan;
  • the German slaughter of the Jews based, in part, on the anti-Semitic teachings of Martin Luther;
  • the massacre of Sikhs as a response to Indira Gandhi’s assassination;
  • the Muslim against Muslim human carnage resulting from the Shi’ite-Sunni conflicts;
  •  the Bosnian massacre of Bosnia Muslims in the ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Bosnian Serbs;
  • the carnage in Sudan between Christian and Animist forces in the south and the Muslim forces in the north, followed by the genocide of black Sudanese Muslims of Darfur inflicted by the Arab Muslims of the north;
  • the Sabra and Shatila slaughter of mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites by Lebanese Christians; and
  • the current Islamic State displacement of the Yazidis,

to name just a few.  We have become so immune to the oh so common onslaught of violent religious intolerance that we take in the news and  go about our business believing that violent religious intolerance is someone else’s problem.  Today it is the problem of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis.  As history has proved, no person and no religion are immune.

It is time we honored and respected God’s diverse and wondrous creation. It is time we recognize that God would never require the religious to be violently intolerant of the differences existing in God’s own creation. What will it take to eradicate religious intolerance? God only knows.

*See, http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iraq-christians-20140721-story.html., http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/06/17/whats-happening-to-iraqs-christians-as-islamists-tear-across-the-country/, and http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/in-northern-iraq-gains-by-islamic-state-threaten-centuries-old-christian-town/2014/07/19/7088f3b6-0f53-11e4-8c9a-923ecc0c7d23_story.html.

Christians in Qaraqosh, Iraq

Photo courtesy of : http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iraq-christians-20140721-story.html

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Religious Intolerance – Deja Vous Again and Again

Intolerance in the name of God has been around for centuries. For example, between 1095 and 1291 and then to a lesser extent for the next three centuries, intensely pious and fanatical Roman Catholics, led by their Popes and with the cross as their standard, fought “Just” and “Holy” wars throughout Europe and the Middle East.  While forcefully converting whole nations to the Roman Catholic church, they killed, looted, tortured and raped Muslims, Jews, believers in the Eastern Orthodox religions and other “heretics” and pagans (believers in pre-Christian religions), throwing a significant portion of the world into the Dark Ages.  Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades and http://wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christian_thought_on_persecution_and_tolerance.

Today, from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania, Muslim fanatics emulate their crusading forebears. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has described their murder and torture as a “bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.” Http://thebea.st/11KT9YQ. We see the violence born of intolerance  in the vigilantism of radical Muslims attempting to establish Sharia in Nigeria. As a result, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has warned that “some of the greatest dangers to [Nigeria’s] democracy and freedom are shrouded in the perils of ethnicity and religious intolerance.” http://bit.ly/17VgzkK.  We see the violence born of intolerance in the Sunni Muslim government’s decades-long persecution of Sudanese Christians, culminating in the genocide at Darfur.

Although violent religious intolerance occurs for a variety of historical, political and cultural reasons, monotheistic teachings seem to play a role. The concept of the all-powerful, omniscient and omnipresent One True God means, for the fundamentalists, that all gods other than their god are false, that all holy books other than their holy book are bogus, and that all believers in religions other than their religion are damned for eternity. For the fanatical fundamentalists, it is one short step to the principle that only they, who follow the One True God, are moral, good, righteous and holy enough to inflict His vengeance on all believers in the “other”.  Seehttp://bit.ly/17KsGOw,   http://www.humanreligions.info/fundamentalism.html and http://www.humanreligions.info/violence_and_crime.html.

It is impossible to know with any certainty what Allah would think about the death and mayhem being committed in His name. From just two of the lessons of Muhammad, we can, however, make an educated guess. He taught that “the greatest crimes are to … murder your own species” and  “if people do you good, you will do good to them; and if they oppress you, you will not oppress them.” Fanatical believers have yet to learn some of the most basic lessons of the Prophet.

crusadesmainpic

Photo Courtesy of: http://www.mitchellteachers.org/WorldHistory/RiseofIslam/Crusades.html

Islamophobia – it’s beneath us

 An employer introduced his new hire as a “good Christian”. Hardly newsworthy, but maybe actionable, if the new employee replaced a devout Muslim who often prayed at work, didn’t quite fit in to the office social scene and didn’t always agree with his fellow workers on the Iraqi war.  Then there was a 19-year old woman who was  hired wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf and was fired when she refused to remove it at work. These fact patterns and others like them form the basis of a record number of claims alleging religious discrimination against Muslims and Islamophobia in the workplace now being heard in American courts and at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://plaintiffmagazine.com/Apr12/Durrani_Working-while-Muslim_Religious-discrimination-in-the-workplace_Plaintiff-magazine.pdf.

Islamophobia, “an irrational fear of Islam and animosity toward Muslims” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/muqtedar-khan/islamophobia-only-a-short_b_2721633.html, is fast becoming the window through which non-Muslim Americans view Muslim Americans and the rest of the Muslim world. The causes are apparent. The horrendous attacks of September 11, 2001 and the myriad of other such attacks affecting almost every corner of the world have fueled the growth of Islamophobia. It has even found its way into pop culture.  

Two acclaimed films, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, under a seemingly critical veneer, make the case for use of our more gruesome anti-terrorist policies, such as torture and drones. These policies become merely Machiavellian, with the ends justifying the means. Our policies are right, because they correct an even greater wrong. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/muqtedar-khan/islamophobia-only-a-short_b_2721633.html.

Our policies may ultimately be right.  But it would be an unfortunate truth if they were based on what we called “propaganda” during the Cold War. In the recent Benghazi hearings, time and again we heard the term “Islamic terrorism”, an identification of terrorism with Islam. Even Hitler and his Nazis, probably the greatest and most efficient mass murderers of the 20th century, weren’t called Christian mass murderers, even though they were Christians, and they were hell-bent on annihilating Jews.

Propaganda is reinforcing our Islamophobia, making acceptable mistreatment of our own citizens and a foreign policy which may be based on prejudice and intolerance. Even in a post 9/11 America, both outcomes should be unacceptable as a violation of our basic freedoms.

INTER-FAITH PROTEST AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA AND P...

INTER-FAITH PROTEST AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA AND PETER KING’S CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS ON MUSLIM RADICALIZATION 2011 – Times Square, Manhattan NYC – 03/06/11 (Photo credit: asterix611)

More similar than different

The World English Dictionary defines intolerance as “the lack of respect for … beliefs other than one’s own.” If it can be shown that the beliefs of Muslims, Christians and Jews are similar, then, by definition, they would have no reason to be intolerant toward each other based on religious beliefs. I chose to compare the Ten Commandments, the fundamental law of Jews and Christians governing ethical and moral behavior, with the Qur’an, God’s book of guidance and the central religious text of Islam, to search for similarities.

Although the text of the Commandments is not included in the Qur’an, the Qur’an references the Commandments and admonishes Muslims to follow them. More importantly, words throughout the Qur’an parallel those found in the Commandments as they appear in Exodus 20: 2-17 and Deuteronomy 5: 6-21. For example:

                    Ten Commandments                  /            Qur’an

  • Thou shall have no other gods before me/Know there is no god but God (chapter 47: verse 19);
  • Thou shall not take the name of God in vain/Make not God’s name an excuse to your oaths (2:224);
  • Thou shall honor they mother and father/Be kind to your parents; address them in terms of honor (17:23);
  • Thou shall not kill/If anyone has killed one person it is as if he has killed the whole mankind (5:32); and
  • Thou shall not commit adultery/Adultery is an indecent deed and a way for other evils (17:32).

For more similarities, see http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=IC0705-3281 and http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr10cisl.htm.

The similarities are too easy to find and too striking to ignore.  Believers of each of the three faiths could logically conclude that both the Qur’an and the Commandments come from a common source – the one God. Maybe we know each other better than we think. There is no chasm to bridge, but merely a gap to step over to dispel the distrust and intolerance on both sides. So, let’s just take the step.

Photo by: atemporelspirit    Image courtesy of: http://plancksconstant.org/blog1/2009/11/is_the_quran_based_on_the_bible.html

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