Don’t base definition of Islam on actions of a few extremists

Rev. John Darlington

Posted Aug 29, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Don’t base definition of Islam on actions of a few extremists

By Rev. John Darlington

Upon reading Kathleen Parker’s recent column, (“Christians and Muslims don’t really worship the same God”), I contacted Mohamoud Hamud, my Muslim neighbor, curious about whether his outrage was anything like mine.

“We deal with these things all the time,” said Hamud. “There is no end to it.”

That our neighbors and fellow Americans are subject to scrutiny over the simple fact that they are Muslim is a sad portrait of the equality we ostensibly hold dear. But when Christians beat others over the head with our doctrine, we betray not only our nation, which we hold up as the “greatest on earth,” but our God, whom we see uniquely revealed in the life and teachings of the just and compassionate Jesus.

Never mind that Muhammad invoked Jesus as a matter of routine in his lectures, lavishing more praise upon him than any other prophet in the Qu’ran.

Ms. Parker’s premise seems to be that, instead of searching for common ground with Muslims, Christian believers should be on the forefront of an epic struggle against them.

After all, she claims, “Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God and Muslims think otherwise.”

Ignore the fact that had she offered the same indictment against Judaism, not all of the retractions in the world would atone for her bigotry.

But scapegoating Muslims in the name of Christianity has become commonplace, in our post-September 11 world.

As we approach the sixth anniversary of Ground Zero, my head throbs with nightmares of the Cold War, and how every last Russian would stop at nothing to nuke and annihilate us. Now, 50 years later, I’ve learned that only a minority of Soviets actually held such spite and resolve against America.

You know where this is leading: Neither do I believe that Muslims are, as a rule, terrorists. In fact, those I’ve worked with at home, and others I’ve visited on my semi-frequent journeys to the Middle East, abide by Islam as The Way in a similar vein to that with which Christians regard our Christianity.

For the countless Muslims with whom I’ve lived, worked, and traveled, Islam is The Way of compassion, justice, and peace.

But, for the record, I do fear the extremists who regard Jews and Christians as infidels and America as the “Great Satan.” When I think that another September 11 (or worse) could take place, my head throbs with worry every bit as intense as when I grew up in fear of “the Russians.”

But if my fear of the Muslim extremists causes me headaches, my trepidation of Christian extremism in my own backyard brings about in me a more chronic kind of agony.

It could be that before terrorism “explodes,” Christianity will “implode.” Fear that seeks no more practical solution than to demonize those who are different relies not on diplomacy and dialogue, but hate and hypocrisy, which are anathema to our Savior’s teachings and inevitably result in violence.

Are we far removed from Jim Crow and the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan, both of which were undergirded by so called moral values and “Christian principles?” I fear not.

Mohamoud Hamud serves the public as an “Islamic Religious Counselor” at Saint Marys Hospital. Like the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains in his office, he is gentle and compassionate in his mannerisms, respectful of others, but strong in his convictions.

He reminded me that the Mosque is open every month on the last Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for dialogue with the people of Rochester. Non-Muslims are encouraged to voice concerns or raise questions with the goal of eradicating negative stereotypes and bringing the community together.

Hamud is quick to admit that there are Wahabi and other Arab Muslims who twist the intrinsic “Way” of the Qu’ran to conform to their own narrow and destructive purposes, just as there are Christians and Jews who do the same with their own Holy Book.

It is to such an exchange of honest and informative dialogue that the Kathleen Parkers of the world can smartly and sincerely devote themselves, steadfastly resisting the impulse to jump on the bandwagon of fear-mongering and scapegoating in the good name of religion.

John Darlington is a pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester, MN.  Originally published in the Post-Bulletin