“Since an impression has been created in some quarters that most Muslims are terrorists, the police often arrest some Muslims on mere suspicion. Once such a Muslim is arrested, it is difficult for him to get bail…even if he is ultimately found innocent, nobody can restore so many years of his life spent in jail. There were a large number of cases falsely implicating Muslims.”
-Justice Markandey Katju, the Chairman of the Press Council of India(Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, March 7, 2013)
The perception that ‘All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims’ has become a part of the social common sense. Polls show that nearly half of the population of U.S. holds negative view about Islam and Muslims. It’s kind of funny that many Non-Muslims in India avoid visiting a Muslim-dominated area because they fear that Muslims might attack them and kill them!
The anti-Muslim sentiments are all time high among public. Most Hindus in India still hold the belief that Muslims are evil invaders from a foreign land who had come to India to enforce their religion at the point of sword. The problem arises as a result of the tendency of most people to define themselves against other people’s culture. Whatever is foreign or unfamiliar becomes fearsome.
“They don’t dress like us. They don’t behave like us. They don’t pray like us. Therefore we must be afraid of them.”
The anti-Muslim bigotry is not new. Islam has often been portrayed with negative stereotyping by the historians, as Bernard Lewis expressed Islam as “a military religion, [with] fanatical warriors, engaged in spreading their faith and their law by armed might.” 1
Media adds fuel to the fire by supporting the politicians and racists to promote their own agenda. Media people incorrectly frame the territorial and political conflicts in a religious context.
On an occasion Justice Markandey Katju said:
“A majority of the media people are of very poor intellectual level, with no idea of economic theory or political science, philosophy or literature. The Indian press is not working for the interest of the people.” 3
It might be surprising to many of you but the latest research tells us that Religion (specifically Islam) has got nothing to do with terrorism.
Robert Pape, a political scientist at University of Chicago and founder of ‘Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism’, compiled the first complete database of every documented suicide bombing from 1980-2004 and made an observation in his book: ‘Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism’ that:
“The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions. Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” 4
Those people who believe that all terrorists are Muslims can look at the following data are either unaware of History or they deliberately ignore the facts. How can anyone forget the mass murders committed by Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Tse Tsung and Maximilin Robespierre. How can anyone forget the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How can anyone forget the atrocities committed by U.S. military on innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan? How can anyone ignore the atrocities committed by Israeli military on innocent people of Palestine? How can anyone forget thousands of innocent Muslims killed in Gujarat riots?
The history is filled with examples of Non-Muslim terrorists. It is wrong to link the act of terrorism with any religion. There is no such thing as Islamic terrorism or Hindu terrorism or Christian terrorism. No religion sanctions killing of innocent people.
Many people think that the best way to dispel misconceptions about Muslims is education. They say that if people learn more about Islam then they wouldn’t be so afraid of Muslims. However, that is not the case in reality.
There are many well educated scholars who spread hatred against Islam and Muslims, for example, Arun Shoorie, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Robert Spencer, Pamella Geller, etc. Cartoons published in Denmark humiliating the Prophet (S.A.W.) were not made by illiterates. The Movie “Innocence of Muslims” which also disrespected the Holy Prophet was also not made by illiterates.
Of course, education is necessary. There is no doubt that people are ignorant about Islam and they need to be made aware. But as the famous Iranian-American scholar of religions, Dr. Reza Aslan says,
“Data or education alone cannot change perception because bigotry does not reside in the mind, it resides in the heart. The only way that you can battle fear is through relationships.” 5
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on Him) used to say “The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 759)
He is also reported to have said:
“The Muslim is a person from whose tongue and hand all people are safe.” (Narrated by Imam al Nasai, by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and also by Imam al Tabrani)
I request all Muslims to please learn and try to acquire the excellent moral character of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on Him). Set an example before Non-muslims that Islam’s teachings are beautiful. There is a famous saying,
‘Practice what you preach.’
I request all Non-Muslims not to judge Muslims by the presumptions based on hatred and prejudice. Don’t hesitate to talk to a Muslim. Just go, ask questions and clear your doubts. Don’t let the politicians, racists and corporate media control your minds. I can guarantee that no sensible Muslim will kill you just because you are a Hindu or a Christian or a Sikh.
1. ‘No god But God’, Reza Aslan, pg. 78-79
2. ‘No god But God’, Reza Aslan, pg. 78-79
3. Weekend Panorama: The Rotten State of India’s Media, Wall Street Journal, India, Dec. 2, 2011
4. Robert pape, ‘Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism’, Ch. 1, pg. 4.
5. Misperceptions about Islam today: A conversation with Reza Aslan by Stephania Lakatos. (‘Stand Alone Media’ www.sam.tv ).