Misconceptions about Islam: Does Islam promote violence and terrorism? (2020/08/02)

What does the word Islam mean? Why is Islam always to blame for the horrifying terrorist attacks that take place around the world? Does Islam promote violence and terrorism? Many of these questions are on the minds of people who have been told false information about Islam on the internet and media. People are developing a hatred towards Islam because of the incorrect perception they have of the religion. The word Islam is derived from the Arabic word “sal’m” which literally means peace. In the correct context Islam means submission to the god of Jesus, Moses, and Abraham, who is to known to Muslims as Allah SWT. The fact of the matter is that Islam is a religion that is grounded in peace and justice which prohibits violence against innocents and allows the use of fighting in appropriate situations. Many people are fed false narratives about Islam and Muslims due to the prevalence of terrorist attacks and the misrepresentation of Islam on the internet and media. These narratives are incorrect and do exactly what the terrorist wants, which is to portray that extremist version of Islam to the world. These attacks that are happening go completely against the moral code of Islam and are often justified through twisted interpretations of the Quran and sunnah.

The first words of the Quran are: In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful. Every Muslim says these words before starting a task whether it’s eating food or beginning a test. Mercy and grace are some of the dominant attributes of Allah SWT; a fact that is often overlooked by extremists and Islamophobes. In the famous hadith of Prophet Muhammad SAW he says: “None of you has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself” (Sahih Bukhari 13). The use of the word brother in this hadith has been widely interpreted by scholars to refer to the universal brotherhood of all of humanity and the importance of this hadith has been referred to by scholars as 25% of the entirety of faith. This hadith and many others like it show the love and mercy which is a central part of the Islamic faith.

Allah SWT says in the Quran: “whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” Behold the value of the human soul in Islam. We cannot reasonably equate the actions of a few individuals to represent a 1400 year-old religion of 1.8 billion people. A religion that practiced modern just war ethics over 1000 years before the modern laws of war were even established. A religion that brought an end to female infanticide and formed a civilization which created an age of scientific advancement in medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. It is completely misguided to suggest that this religion is inherently violent and to blame it for these murderous acts that we are witnessing around the world.

The media has been continuously pushing a public opinion about Muslims which sparks fear and generates more viewers for the outlet. According to a study by the university of Alabama, terror attacks by Muslims receive 357% more press attention than attacks by non Muslims. This false narrative that Islam is a religion that promotes violence and terrorism has been a driving force for Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims. Last years New Zealand terrorist attack was a direct result of the misrepresentation of Muslims on the internet and the scapegoating of Islam and immigrants by politicians. The rise of white nationalism has seen the definition of terrorism become exploited to frame the only kind of terrorism to be an act that is committed by a Muslim. But as we have seen with the New Zealand attack, that clearly isn’t the case. Terrorism as defined by the encyclopedia Britannica is: “the calculated use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.” Both sides of the political spectrum have embraced the false stereotype that Islamic extremist violence is the only form of terrorism. Take the attack on a Colorado planned parenthood clinic which killed three people back in 2015. The attacker, Robert Dear, was a man who described violence toward similar clinics as “God’s work” and his ex wife (as quoted by the New York Times) described his beliefs as he could do what he wanted, as long as he could be divinely forgiven. Were there any calls on the Christian community to condemn this attack. Was this attack labeled as a religiously inspired terrorist attack? The answer is no because the American people understand that this does not represent the teachings of Christianity. Now if the person who attacked the clinic was a Muslim, then what would this have been labeled as? Would there have been calls on the Muslim community to condemn the attack? Would the media continue to espouse the opinion that Islam is a religion that promotes violence? I think the answer to those questions is more than obvious.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the unexpected happened. The atrocious attacks of 9/11 killed almost 3000 people; a lesser known fact is that dozens of those victims were Muslim. Attacks on innocent civilians are absolutely prohibited in Islam and are condemned by the vast majority of Muslims and scholars. Islam according to the Quran and sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW clearly prohibits terrorist attacks, the harming of innocents, and advocates against suicide bombings. Allah SWT says in the Quran “And do not kill yourselves. Surely, God is Most Merciful to you.” (Quran 4:29), which clearly prohibits suicide bombings and other such killings. The terrorist groups that are carrying out these atrocities are irreligious and are merely hiding behind the name of Islam to carry out their political and economic agendas. One of the masterminds of the Paris attacks in 2015 owned and managed a bar. Does that seem like the religiously motivated jihadist that’s painted all over the news. Many of the people in these terrorist groups are after political control in an unstable region of the world and capitalize on people’s hatred of western countries to grow in numbers. It is incumbent upon society to recognize that these terrorist groups are hijacking the religion of Islam and do not follow the teachings of Islam. Rather they are twisting the religion to fit their objectives.

The claim that Islam is an inherently violent religion which promotes bloodshed and terrorism is misconceived and incorrect. Islam is a religion of love and mercy which repeatedly emphasizes gods attributes as gracious and merciful. We cannot represent the entire religion of Islam based on the actions of a few individuals who use a twisted ideology to fulfill their agendas. Islam in no way endorses violence against innocents and suicide bombings. We must see through the double standards that the mainstream media puts in place. We must recognize the true Islam that Malcolm X believed was “the one religion that erases from its society the race problem”. The true Islam that established the civilization of Al Andalus in Spain which was known as “the ornament of the world”. The true Islam which proclaims the worth of one soul to be equal to that of humanity. As the perception of Islam continues to be degraded, it becomes time to look past all the hollow stereotypes on the internet and learn the truth about this beautiful way of life.


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