Islam Is Not The Enemy
By Atif Quraishi
Why are the Muslims so violent? Why must a Muslim kill another Muslim? Why do “the cartoons” bother them so much? Sometimes these questions get tiring. But most of the time it is tiring to find that thin grey line the media draws between religious fanaticism and religious faith.
I wish I had a podium just like Glenn Beck and others on CNN or Fox News. I wish I could get in front of the camera and tell you that I am a Muslim and I am the “religious you” in many ways.
Violence is not a Muslim trait. It is a human one. Most of us forget that the socioeconomic and political environment is not the same everywhere. The path of nonviolence is easily afforded to us. But others exercise violence without any regard. Some get violent over images in a newspaper, while others do it to incite fear. Yet others like Glenn Beck associate violence with Islam to propagate fear.
There is little to no coverage of rallies where Muslims denounce terrorism and violence on a national or international scale. No coverage of the events where Muslims work with others in their communities to remove the wave of isolationism that has gripped us. Fear among the general population coupled with the daily commentaries by people like Glenn Beck is isolating us from a meaningful dialogue. The only dialogue broadcast is one where we complain about the need for dialogue.
Every time Glenn Beck asks, “Where are the peace-loving Muslims now?” I can’t help but hold my head in dismay. Where was he when I denounced the violence over the cartoons? Where was he when I was angry at the senseless killings in Iraq? My fellow Americans, I wish you knew I existed and I wish you knew there were millions like me.
We all know that fear makes us do very bad things. I wish mine was the voice of Muslims that is heard across our nation. I wish mine was the voice that compelled you to fight the fear; to fight Islamophobia. I wish mine was the voice that overcame the negativity that emanates from the likes of Glenn Beck.
The prophet Muhammad reminded us that all mankind is from Adam and Eve and that acts of kindness, forgiveness, peace and love have great rewards. He said that the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr. These words uttered over 1,400 years ago have no impact on the people responsible for the killings in Iraq. They kill each other despite what the most revered figure in Islam has asked them to do.
I cannot begin to understand the history between the two sects of Islam, but I can safely assume that the history of the country itself and the politics of power in the guise of a religious fight have more to do with the violence than anything else. Recently when I visited Mecca, I saw a sea of people circling the house of God; I saw people from around the world standing together shoulder to shoulder, men and women, rich and poor, Sunni and Shiite. I saw people, not Sunnis or Shiites, and they were not trying to kill each other.
As a Muslim, I do love my God and my prophet and I can tell you honestly that “the cartoons” did make me question the civility of our society.
Does freedom of speech mean I can do or say what I please? My faith teaches me to be kind to others, and to respect their feelings and beliefs. I live with all of you and thus I respect your beliefs, your Gods and holy people. I don’t have to draw cartoons or write books that shame them. With this right, I believe, comes great responsibility.
Don’t get me wrong – I am a big fan of this freedom. I am exercising it right now, but I choose to be careful with it. Therefore I must admit that if someone decides to draw or ridicule my prophets then they are exercising their right as well. I am tolerant of that, but not ignorant. And so, if we associate this right with a civil society, I hope that we are actually civil when exercising this right.
Violence is never the answer. A lot of what we do in this world is because it is in our nature as humans. We choose to differentiate ourselves on the basis of origin, color and sex, but mostly, religion.
My fellow Americans, I wish Muslims like me had a voice in this nation. I wish mine was the voice that tells you that I am a Muslim and I am the “American you” in many ways.
Atif Quraishi is an information technology manager in the insurance industry. He lives in Coventry.