Image via WikipediaLately, I've been defending Islam so much I think maybe some of my friends are starting to wonder if I'm considering converting. It probably seem sto some that I am a huge fan of Islam. Add that to my criticism of Christianity and church and... well, if you put two and two together, they add up to four. Right? Well, you can be assured that nothing could be further from my mind than converting to Islam. I don't defend Islam because I personally like Islam. I defend it against what I perceive to be unfair attacks and generalizations. I defend it because there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, most of whom are good peace loving people. I defend it because it's the American thing to do, defend freedom of religion. I defend it because Islam is not so very different from Christianity or Judaism both of which were unfairly treated in the past.
To set the record straight, I'm not a huge fan of Islam-personally. If I had to choose a religion to convert to, Islam would be way down on the list. There are some great things about Islam. Lots of spiritual discipline (praying five times a day, fasting). I like the idea of zakat (giving to charity) that is one of the five pillars. In fact of the five pillars- praying, charity, fasting, there is only one G-d and hajj (a trip to Mecca) I think four of the five are pretty cool. I do have some problems I have with Islam. First, it seems to me like very much like an "earn your favor" with G-d religion. The rituals could easily become dry and rote. I mean praying five times a day, mandatory, on the dot, at certain times? Eating hallal (kind of like eating kosher in Judaism)? Fasting every day for a month? No, not for me. Secondly, I haven't read a lot of the Qur'an. But, I have had occasions to read bits of it. The Qur'an, to me, reads too much like the Old Testament. I have to agree with the Muslim haters out there that, misinterpreted, it could be a very dangerous text. However, I don't see it as any more or less dangerous than the Old Testament. Have you ever really read the book of Leviticus? C'mon. What could be scarier? Lastly, the thing about Muhammad being Allah's last (and I guess that means best) prophet isn't something I could not accept. In my opinion, the Qur'an (which was reportedly dictated by an angel to Muhammad) and Muhammad himself get too high of a status in Islam- similar to the way Christians give the Bible too high a status in Christianity. And similar to the way some Christians equate Yeshua/Isa/Jesus with G-d. Whenever you give a book or even a man too high a status, you're approaching idolatry-putting the written word or the words of a man on par with us individually and continually hearing from G-d. I've run away from it in Christianity, I certainly couldn't embrace it in Islam. I think G-d is still speaking and is always speaking. Declaring a particular prophet to be the best or the last or saying a book (any book) is "THE WORD of GOD" limits G-d and cuts off seeking further revelation which we always need, IMO.
So, as you can see, I don't defend Islam because I think it's the greatest religion in the world. My personal feelings about Islam have nothing to do with my defense of Islam or the rights of Muslims to practice it without having people protest every single mosque they try to build. My friends keep pointing out to me human rights abuses in Muslim run countries. I don't deny that nor do I shy away from it. Women are treated atrociously in many Muslim countries. Gays are stoned. Non-Muslims are not allowed to worship or to even have places of worship. It's really not good in many ways. However, I have a couple of things to say about that. I don't think we can blame that on Islam, exclusively. Christianity has its own history of abuse of women, blacks, gays, non-Christians, etc., etc. We have burned people as witches. Children are still killed for being witches in Africa. I think the problems we see with Islam around the world are more a product of the abuses that happen when yo have theocracies than they are problems particular to Islam. When Christianity got mixed in with state power, we saw some very ugly things. Imagine if America was run by Fred Phelps or Reverend Terry Jones? Can you imagine those guys waving the book of Leviticus around and writing the 10 Commandments as the law of the land? Some Arab countries are run by some pretty nutty guys who are trying to run things based on a book that they see as the WORD of G-d. What do you think Fred Phelps would do if he had the kind of power some of the Arab Imams have? No wonder we see stonings (also commanded by the Bible), amputations and beheadings. It's what happens when you try to take literally a book written in a completely different era. We are fortunate our Founding Fathers saw this possibility and nipped it in the bud.
That covers Islam in Islam run countries. Now, let's talk about Muslim Americans- who are bearing the brunt of this wave of Islamaphobia. Muslim Americans have contributed and continue to contribute to our society as much as anyone else has. They died with us on 9/11. They fight along side us everyday in Afghanistan. Their spiritual disciplines and their belief in the commandments of the Qur'an makes them excellent law abiding citizens. It's tragic that we associate them with the few nuts in Al Qaeda, allowing a population of probably maybe a few thousand to destroy the reputation and the faith of a population of over 1.5 billion. There are more than five times the number of Muslims in the world as there are Americans; and we judge them on the basis of the extreme beliefs and actions of not enough people to even fill a football stadium or a basketball arena. No one really knows how big Al Qaeda is. But, I've seen an estimate of around 10,000. Sounds like a lot until you divide 10,000 by 1,500,000,000 and realize that maybe around one out of 150,000 Muslims is an Al Qaeda member. Based on the actions of 19 men, on a day 9 years ago, many of us are willing to trash the entire faith of 1.5 billion people. There are only 30 people at the Dove Worldwide Outreach Center (the pastor who wants to burn the Qur'an). How would we feel if the Muslim world judge all of us based on their actions? I'm not equating burning a book with actually killing people. But, what if they even went as far as to go killing Muslim? Would we think it reasonable to judge out entire country based on those actions?