November 19, 2018

Your Reaction to Islam Will Define Who You Are.

Your relationship with Islam will define you as a person.

Once, as a child, I asked a poor gardener who lived in a neighbor’s garage with three sick children and an ailing wife, why he always smiled. I loved his wisdom. I saw him daily, and he never complained. “My son, Allah is writing my story and I am an actor in His book. What greater satisfaction is there?”

I’m blessed. I grew up in Iran, a Muslim country, where I experienced the true face of Islam, of faith, of surrender, and of peace. During the revolution, I witnessed and heard numerous stories of Muslims who helped Jews, Christians and Bahais escape certain death. I grew up with sayings from Ali: “Beautiful people are not always good, but good people are always beautiful.” And “your sin is not greater than God’s mercy.” And the poetry of my beloved Rumi keeps me warm even today.

Currently, our world is torn over accepting Syrian refugees. Some have gone as far as proposing policies to accept those who fail a “Muslim religious test.”  How you see Muslims will deeply affect your decision about these unfortunate people. Do you act out of love or out of fear?

Some of you have come to hate everything Muslim. I've heard you whisper “kill them all.” Others have become so politically correct that they fear even uttering the words Muslim or Islam (as if saying the “N” word) lest they insult someone. Some find a sense of purpose and a sick pleasure out of quoting verses of the Quran which appear satanic, without intimate knowledge of Islam or their own holy books for that matter. Still others who have never befriended, had dinner with, or dated a Muslim, lump them all with the topic of the day- terrorism.

Allow me to share a few thoughts:

1- There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. It would serve you well to befriend a few and get to know them well.

2- Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the overall world population between 2010 and 2050 and will likely surpass Christians as the world’s largest religious group. So, if you are not Muslim, soon you will be the minority!

3- There are highly bothersome verses in the Bible, in both the Jewish Bible and the New Testament. Barbaric, even satanic verses can be pulled out of the pages of any “holy book.”

4- The vast majority of Muslims are no different than the vast majority of Jews or Christians. People are people when you get to know them.

5- The extremism that exists in Islam is currently harsher than any other, but, world's history has witnessed extremism from Christians (Crusades) as well as from secular ideologies such as Marxism or Hitler's genetic cleansing.

6- The average Muslim wants what we all want: life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

7- Most Muslims are ashamed of terrorists and terrorism and extremism, and wish as do the rest of us to rid themselves of a connection with this hideous ideology. In fact, they have more to lose by the slanders of their holy book and prophets than the rest of us.

8- Ultimately, decent people will use an ideology or a religion to help others, while indecent people will abuse the ideology or the religion to hurt others.

9- When you don’t see Muslims speak up for you or against extremists, engage them, talk to them, but don’t attack them and build walls to lock out your potentially most important allies.

10- How you react to Islam and Muslims, in the end, will say more about you than about the religion.

Rather than posting insults to Prophet Muhammad and pointing out problems to get a few likes on social media and high fives from non-Muslim friends, your efforts would do more good if you reached out and built bridges toward and befriended the decent Muslims who so much want your love. As the wise Sufi teaching goes: Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve the silence?”