by Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief
What is the difference between the Taliban flogging a woman for having an affair with a stranger and the Christian fanatic killing an abortion doctor in Wichita, Kansas at his church?
Practically none except that the Taliban appeared to be more merciful in sparing the life of the person whom they deemed had violated the principles of their culture or the faith as they understood it. Otherwise, both actions were driven by an interpretation that many religious leaders regularly promote in their religious traditions. Speaking on behalf of God, they try to convince their followers that if they did not punish the person who does not agree with their viewpoint, God will be angry and will even punish them for allowing the deviations to occur.
Behind all the violence that humanity has witnessed over hundreds of years is this philosophy of revenge in the name of God. It is an issue that is prevalent in all religions regardless what their origin is. Even in religions that claim to be non violent, killing is justified as long as it is done in the name of their deity. It requires a serious analysis of this philosophy. However, what is relevant now is how do people and those who form peopleâ€™s opinion react to such acts committed by two different groups and why do they so and how can this issue be addressed?
It is obvious that in European and American media, biases against Islam and Muslims are prevalent. By and large, neither Islam nor Muslims are viewed with respect by a great majority of people. Often, people argue that 9/11 is responsible for this situation. However, the negative feelings against Islam and Muslims were ostensibly visible prior to 9/11.
It is not the first time that an act of violence in the name of religion was committed by a group claiming to be the practioners of a particular faith. Our human history is full with religious zealots who have committed horrible acts in the name of God to kill and destroy. Only in the last century, more than 50 million people were deliberately killed by those who for whatever reason did not find the murdered worthy of living a full life. However one rarely hears in the media or academic circles that these events were motivated by religious hatred. Even though it is acknowledged that more than 6 million Jews were killed in Germany and hundreds and thousands of more were killed in Europe during the well orchestrated pogroms in the name of Jesus, no one places the blame on Christianity or Christian fanatics. No one quotes from the Bible those passages that promote violence and intolerance against people of other faiths. No one refers to those commandments where Christians and Jews are exhorted to destroy and kill those who do not believe in their God. For instance, no one would ever quote the following verse that appears in 2 Chronicles 15:13 that read. That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. What other direct evidence one would require to conclude that violence is divinely sanctioned in the Old Testament and why would an independent observer not argue that Judaism and Christianity promote violence against all other religions.
The reason is simple. Those who are writing against Islam and Muslims are primarily coming from these two religious sources and very few of them would have the courage to look at their faults from an objective perspective.
For instance, how many media men referred to Wichita, KS killing as an act of religious fanaticism? How many talked about those religious leaders who are spreading hatred against abortion doctors. How many of them referred to the Bible where this kind of revenge is justified?
Why is all the hatred and venom reserved for Islam and Muslims?
First, the emergence of Islam and Muslims in Europe and America is a relatively new phenomenon. Never before in history, were Muslims present in these societies in such a large number. Their presence is breaking down the monolithic nature of European and American societies which were predominantly Christians. Obviously, power elites representing various faith traditions are not happy with this. They are concerned about sharing power and resources with another religious group that in their view is pagan or antagonistic to their beliefs.
Second, the existing literature against Islam and Muslims project them as anti-Christ and anti-Jewish. The literature echoes in churches and synagogues week after week. Not only that but hundreds of publications are devoted to spread the message of Islam throughout the country. For instance one Chic Publications in Rancho Cucamonga, California distributes thousands of tracks against all non-Christian and Jewish faith with particular reference to Islam that promote hatred.
Third, some Muslims in their actions reinforce the stereotypical image and constantly provide evidence to propagandists. Based on their understanding of the Quran and the books of Ahadith, they believe that violence is justified to please God.
Fourth, only a few people are interested in developing a genuine understanding of the world around them. Most focus on news stories that create sensation and drama rather than an educated understanding.
Fifth, Muslims do not have a unified strategy to address these issues. Their understanding of their scriptures varies according to the sects and organizations they belong to. Each one with its statement adds to the existing confusion.
Sixth, Muslim religious scholars have seldom made a concerted efforts to address some of the most pertinent issues so that confusion over some of the concerns of others can be responded effectively.
Thus, Islam and Muslims remain the main target at the hands of liberals, right wing Christian evangelists, Jewish Zionists and Hindu fanatics as well as the ignorant Muslim zealots.
One way to address this issue is to adopt a policy of tit for tat. Any time, a non-Muslim commits an act of violence or hatred, attribute it to his religion and social philosophy and try to project him as a genuine representative of his or her religion. This policy may satisfy the angry ego but it would not solve the problem. It would increase tensions among communities often leading to violent conflicts.
The other way is to develop a broader alliance of people of all faiths to address such issues. For this religious leadership has to address issues genuinely and adopt a policy that avoids double standards and ensures that the dignity of each and every human being is secured and no one is subject to any ridicule or hatred.