I think Islam has been hijacked by the idea that all Muslims are terrorists; that Islam is about hate, about war, about jihad – I think that hijacks the spirituality and beauty that exists within Islam. I believe in allowing Islam to be seen in context and in its entirety and being judged on what it really is, not what you think it is. – Aasif Mandvi
I recently (Nov 8) presented a reflection on Islam, “Thanks Be to Allah: Thanksgiving in the Muslim Tradition.” In it I tried to share my understanding of Islam as essentially a spiritual path based on care and commitment; care and commitment to both the community and to Allah. Islam does not teach or preach violence or terrorism. Like all religions, however, it can be corrupted by those who wish to justify their own chosen path. Muslims are no more inherently terrorists than Christians, or Jews, or atheists, or whatever. Terrorists are terrorists, often hiding behind any pretext they can find for excusing their own agendas; be it religious, philosophical, or moral.
We Unitarians and Universalists know this. We seek to practice true respect (not just tolerance) for everyone, and to value the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. And yet too often we fail to accomplish this. I have heard within our own ranks continuing derision and disdain for Muslims. I feel sometimes like my words have fallen on deaf ears, or at least turned away ears. It is hard sometimes to actually practice what we claim to believe. It is hard sometimes when faced with the ambiguity and fear of terrorism not to seek to put a face on it, to label it, and so to vilify and to condemn it. An enemy identified is easier to confront than a vague and evil force.
So we are challenged to not be reactionary, to not turn our backs on refugees seeking asylum from the same violence we denigrate. Muslims are human beings too who laugh and cry, love and suffer; who have families, dreams, aspirations, frailties, talents and aptitudes. Our communities are enriched by diversity: racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, language, and even religious diversity. We are then gifted with multiple world views and perspectives on reality. We are poorer when we choose to marginalize or demonize any group. So we Unitarians and Universalists are challenged to see the human face of all peoples and to resist the all too satisfying urge to generalize and to stereotype. It is a difficult challenge to live into reality.
Someone once suggested to me that the dirtiest four letter word in the English language is ‘They.” Just imagine if that word had never been invented and we could not linguistically or conceptually lump people all together: if everyone had to be seen and considered as an individual in a unique context. So I offer for your consideration two less well publicized stories (see web page links below) about two Muslim men. They characterize for me a closer representation of Islam, and encourage me to still value the inherent worth and dignity of every individual.
Enjoy – Greg