September 11 and American Muslims

Today there are more than 12 million Muslims in America. The majority of these people are US citizens who live and serve this country honorably. Contrary to the sensationalism of the media, who conveniently portray Muslims as villains, they are honorable and hard working members of our society.  In Islam, self gratification and promotion is forbidden.  Thus, true Muslims, may not confront those who insult or admonish them.  To us, Americans who live on melodramatic portrayal of the news by our media, this may look like an admission of guilt, but I assure you it is anything but that. 

Right here in our New Mexico community, live a large population of Muslims.  They are business owners, doctors, dentists, attorneys, teachers, etc.  Anyone who has ever had any dealing with any of them, attest to their fairness, professionalism, honesty and integrity.  The accounts of September 11, hurt the American Muslims more than any other group except the families of the victims of this calamity.  Let us not forget that more than eight hundred of those who died in New York’s World Trade Center were Muslims. That is nearly a quarter of all victims.  The attacks on American Muslims that followed added to their injury. 

The most appalling insults have come from some of the clergy.  This is unfortunate, for they should know that there is not a single religion in the history of mankind that condones violence or aggression.  All religions teach us to be tolerant, forgiving, kind, charitable, and benevolent.  From all religions of the Book, Islam is the most demanding in righteousness, morality and propriety.  One of the five pillars of Islam, for example, is giving alms and taking care of the needy in one’s community. 

We are an intelligent and sensible community.  Our population consists of professional and educated people. So it behooves us to act and speak knowingly and sensibly during these hard times.  Especially when talking to our children.  Let us teach them the truth and guide them away from ignorance, bigotry, and prejudice.  Here are a few facts about Islam that we should all know.

**Islam is the second largest religion in the world.  Islam means peace and Muslims are very peaceful people.

**Allah is the Arabic word for God.  In Arabic speaking countries, even the Arabic speaking Jews and Christians call God, Allah (swt).  In non-Arabic speaking Muslim countries, other equivalent words for God are used. 

**Muslims believe in one God.  The God of Muslims is the God of Abraham, the God of Moses and the God of Jesus. Muslims revere and venerate all prophets.  In the eyes of Muslims, Abraham, Moses and Jesus along with all other prophets are loved and cherished as much as Mohammad.  The Holy Qur’an mentions the oneness of all religions of the book several times. For example, in 2:136, 3:84, and 4:152, the Holy Qur’an specifically instructs that:  “Say: We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed upon Abraham, and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed by their Sustainer unto Moses and Jesus and all the other prophets.  We make no distinction between any of them. And unto Him do we surrender ourselves.”

**Only a small percentage of Muslims are Arabs. All Arab countries are US allies, except for the Iraqi government.  People of Iraq however, do not feel any animosity toward America, another fact that is not reported by our media.  After the Gulf War, thousands of the Iraqi people who helped the US, were given asylum and relocated to the United States.  Today many of these Iraqis are helping our government to change the regime in that country.

Indonesia is the most populated Islamic country in the world.  There are more Muslims in Indonesia than all the Middle Eastern countries combined.  Indonesia is a US ally.

**As for women in Islam, they are highly regarded.  The Holy Qur’an, for example, devotes an entire chapter to the Virgin Mary.  “Paradise is at the feet of mothers”, says The Holy Qur’an.  No other religion supplies a more complete instruction on providing for the rights and needs of women as does Islam.  There are as many women converting to Islam in the western countries as there are men.  In some communities in this country, there are more women converting to Islam than there are men. These women are converting to Islam because of Islam’s high regards for women. They would not convert to Islam if this religion demoralized them as is indicated in the media.

In the covering of one’s body, the instruction applies to both men as well as women. Much of what the media exploits and portrays as restriction for Muslim women are cultural and traditional, NOT Islamic.  Remember that most of the Arab countries are barren, hot, dry, deserts full of sand.  Traditionally, all Arabs, men as well as women, covered their faces and bodies to protect them from the harshness of the desert.  It had nothing to do with Islam.  In many non-Arab Muslim countries, the dress code is more liberal.  But whatever the dress code, it applies to both sexes.  In every exploited picture of a Muslim woman printed in our media, you can see men in the background.  Everyone of the men, too, are completely covered with long sleeved shirts and hats.  Yet, our attention is called to the covered woman, why? 

**Women are very involved in politics in Islamic countries.  In many countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and others, women have served as Prime Ministers.  Today, the Vice President of Iran is a woman.  The western media never mentions this fact. 

Those who attacked our country were no more Muslim than Timothy McVeigh was Christian.  Evil and terror has no religion. The murder of innocent people is a sin, no matter what your religion may be.  The Holy Qur’an says: “In evil doing, leaders and followers, both will burn in the fires of hell.”

Islam is a beautiful and peaceful religion.  Those who study and learn about it, are enlighten by it.  The sheer number of believers is a good indication of it’s powerful message.  Islam is a forgiving religion and Muslims are God loving, down to earth and passionate people.  Let’s not confuse politics with religion.  Get to know your friends and neighbors of other faiths.  Explore the similarities between your faith and theirs.  You will be surprised at how little difference there is between them.  Let’s build our communities based on trust and friendship.  An old proverb says; “Evil cannot be overcome in the world.  It can only be contained in oneself.”

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