Allahu Akbar. God is Great.
This beautiful prayer of peace in understanding one’s place in the creation has been unfortunately ringing in the world’s ears as a chant of war.
The threat of violence imposed upon us by groups like Islamic State (ISIS), Boko Haram, al-Qaida, and other like-minded extremists is real and needs to be confronted by all segments of the human family. One segment of that great family are the 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, almost all of whom would love to see threats to peace eliminated.
Simply stated, boldly and without quiver, Islam is a religion of peace that sanctifies life, liberty, and property, and anyone who transgresses against another is acting outside the fold of our beautiful religion.
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Anyone who calls himself a Muslim must value the lives of all, regardless of faith or lack thereof, ethnicity, race, nationality, or political ideology. News of violence in the name of our religion of love is becoming all too frequent and we must stand to declare that perpetrators of senseless violence are in no way affiliated with Islam, for they have done nothing more than hijack our faith and use our prayers of peace as slogans of war.
Unfortunately, the work of moderate Muslims espousing mainstream Islam is far less newsworthy than the bullets and bombs of extremists.
The sound of explosions is louder than the speech of scholars. The vileness of body counts are more engrained in our memory than the words in books. Televisions tuned to the news of violence are more present than the smile or handshake of a Muslim neighbor or coworker.
But the speech of the scholar, the words of a book, the smiles of a neighbor; these are the tools we have to spread the real meaning of our religion. While they are not as loud as the extremists, or as newsworthy as violence, they are the tools that we have to influence the hearts of non-Muslims. They are all we have to share our beautiful traditions with those whom may have had no other contact than the pain of the news from around the world.
Muslims need to stand up and declare their faith loudly. A faith that promotes peace. A faith that promotes respect. A faith that promotes civil responsibility. Not a faith that promotes mere tolerance; for tolerance is an act of bearing something which you detest.
We tolerate taxes, we tolerate sickness; human beings should not merely be tolerated. Rather they should be respected, understood, and dealt with in dignity, for God states in the Holy Qur’an that “Verily, We have honored mankind.” (17:70)
Dignity is not a value granted to humans from any government, group, or religion. Dignity is an inherent value bestowed upon mankind by their Creator. As such, in worshiping the Creator, Muslims must act in accordance of dignity with any and every individual in which they come in contact with.
Dignity, respect, honor — these are not values for those who espouse violence. But they must be at the forefront of the discussion of Muslims who wish to promote their ideals and values in the community.
In addition, along with these values, Muslims who promote them should be offered the opportunity to share on a broader scale. Media and the American public have the power to give more value to words of peace and brotherhood than to visions of conflict. They have the power to give the smile of neighbors more strength than the anger of extremists. And they have the power to make the sound of reason louder and more powerful than the sound of bullets.