Islam is a religion of love, not a terror group

2017-01-15 06:03
Donald Trump. Picture: Evan Vucci, AP

Donald Trump. Picture: Evan Vucci, AP

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The attack on the Berlin Christmas market on December 19 fuelled the racist xenophobic rantings of president-elect Donald Trump, and his vow to ban entry of Muslims into the US, reinstituting a Bush-era registry, enabling the tracking of Muslims in the country.

This authoritarian, bigoted scheme assumes that all terrorists are Muslim, and that all Muslims are potentially terrorists, resulting from the conviction that Islam is inherently violent.

The dangers of such assertions, eagerly taken up by those seeking scapegoats for the perceived ills of society, is to encourage witch-hunts, tracking down and persecuting Muslims suspected of some ill-defined threat to security – ominously reminiscent of the yellow star in 1930s Germany.

We must remember that extremist Christians have killed doctors and nurses working at abortion clinics, bombed churches and schools expressing views differing from their own, attacked offices of critical publications – acts of terror denying others their free exercise of religion and speech.

Although only a minority, there are those in all religious traditions threatened by democracy, religious intolerance, pluralism, and the separation of church and state.

Such attitudes threaten the rights of all minority groups, and all whose quality of life has been immeasurably enhanced by the civilising influence of human and civil rights promoted since the second half of the 20th century.

Fortunately, these totally fallacious views are countered by the voice of reason expressed from within Muslim circles, as well as by numerous others.

Ample evidence attests that the majority of Muslims in the US and worldwide are law-abiding, peace-loving citizens who view all terrorist atrocities with as much abhorrence as principled people in all traditions.

After 9/11, Karen Armstrong, world-renowned commentator on world religion and author of many books, spoke on the same platform as Sufi Sheikh Rauf, who commends her:

“She is popular in the Muslim community because she has an ability to relate the Muslim viewpoint to a Western audience.”

Armstrong emphasises that all religious faiths espouse empathy and compassion, summed up by the Prophet Muhammad:

“You do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness.”

Her book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, eloquently debunks the myth that religions and their followers are inherently violent, illustrating religious attempts over centuries to promote peace, and curb aggression and violence. She emphasises that the greatest human massacres occurred during two world wars, which had no religious incentives.

Most acts of terror are motivated by acquiring or retaining power, rather than by religious commitment, many militant extremists revealing profound ignorance of the Islamic faith.

Confusion, anger, frustration, boredom, fear of domination by shadowy powers, but not authentic religious considerations.

Ironically for Trump, he is turning potential allies into adversaries, as Sufism with its emphasis on all-embracing love, tolerance and inclusivity appears to be one of the most potent forces in the struggle against the divisive, violent militancy of groups claiming – falsely – to represent the Islamic tradition.

A clear distinction must be made between religion that promotes universal wellbeing – human and non-human – and what has harmful consequences. Having the humility to learn from other traditions can immeasurably enrich one’s own attempts to make meaning of one’s world and experience.

We must take seriously the wisdom of adolescent Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, dreadfully wounded by the Taliban for her audacious striving for education: “Invest in books, not bullets.”

Terror is a reaction of anger and fear. Violence will not ultimately be defeated by more violence.

Trump and his ilk would do well to pay heed to some words of Armstrong: “Look at your own faults. Don’t think that all the fault is with the other side. Look at yourselves.”

Diesel has a PhD in religious studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where she taught in that department

Read more on:    donald trump  |  muslims

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