Monumental efforts are prerequisites for living up to the ideals of Islam. What Islam decrees and how the faithful implement those edicts are not always in congruence. Nevertheless, so much misinformation about Islam masquerades as the truth that some rebuttal is warranted. Below are some common misconceptions and the facts that rebut them:
Muslim Americans do not condemn terrorism. A Google search would reveal that more than 500 Muslim American organizations condemned the 9/11 terrorist attacks immediately, just as they have issued press releases applauding Osama bin Laden’s death. Muslims took out full-page newspaper ads condemning 9/11. Still, the erroneous perception persists. Muslims condemn, but non-Muslim Americans remain oblivious. There is no mechanism to funnel all Muslim condemnation of Islamic terrorism to mainstream America.
Muslims also suffer from mirror imaging. Non-Muslim Americans expect Muslim Americans to condemn in the majority’s lexicon, without considering that a community of immigrants not yet fully fossilized into American societal strata lacks the same expertise and access to the media as those who have been fully assimilated.
Muslims want to take over America. To believe that 7 million Muslim Americans can somehow “subjugate” the other 305 million Americans requires some fancy mental gymnastics. Like other immigrant communities, Muslim Americans find comfort in numbers, but only in the context of a united, pluralistic, culturally and religiously diverse, economically, and militarily formidable America. Most Muslim immigrants come from Muslim majority nations. If living in a Muslim-majority nation were their priority, they would have stayed put.
Muslims want to impose Shariah laws in America. Similar to Jewish Halacha, Shariah laws are a religious code of conduct (pertaining to marriage, inheritance, etc.) for Muslims only; they cannot be imposed on non-Muslims. Divinely inspired, Shariah is also a covenant, an Islamic Magna Carta, between the Islamic rulers and the ruled.
Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, author of “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State,” explains: “For most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishment prescribed by Shariah law for a handful of offenses, we rarely acknowledge the high standard of proof necessary for their implementation. Before an adultery conviction can typically be obtained, the accused must confess four times or four adult male witnesses of good character must testify that they directly observed the sex act. The call for Shariah is not a call for sexism, obscurantism or savage punishment, but for an Islamic version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law.”
Of the 50 Muslim majority nations, only Saudi Arabia and Iran enforce the harshest forms of Shariah laws. It is absurd to insinuate that enlightened Muslim Americans would demand the imposition of those edicts that 96 percent of Muslim nations do not implement. Besides, the First Amendment mandates that no religious canons such as Shariah laws will ever encroach on American jurisprudence.
Park 51’s original name, “Cordoba House” (Islamic Center in New York City), implies Muslim intent to colonize America, akin to Muslim conquest of Spain. It means exactly the opposite. Jews, Christians, and Muslims came together under the benevolent Muslim rule in Cordoba in medieval Spain to spearhead harmony, culture and knowledge. The Spanish Inquisition of Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella destroyed that harmony and gave the Jews and Muslims three stark choices: convert to Christianity, be expelled from Spain, or be killed! Spanish civilization reached its zenith during the pre-Inquisition days.
Islam is anti-women. Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija, was a businesswoman who hired the future prophet for his honesty. Islam was the first religion to grant women the right to own property and divorce their husbands. While America awaits its first female president, in the last 20 years, four Muslim nations have had female heads of government: Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia and Bangladesh. For the last 20 years, both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in Bangladesh have been women.
Muslims establish “victory mosques” at conquest sites. It is a fallacy. Besides, scenes of terrorism, like the World Trade Center, are crime scenes, not sites of conquest. Further, Islam forbids desecration of houses of worship belonging to other religions.
Muslims do not fight al Qaeda. Furious with al Qaeda’s indiscriminate terrorism, beginning in 2005, the Sunnis of the Anbar province in Iraq joined forces with their erstwhile enemies, the Americans, in what came to be known as “Sunni Awakening,” to defeat al Qaeda, 97 percent of whose victims are Muslims.
Islam and the West are incompatible. For thousands of years, Islam has harmoniously coexisted with Hinduism in India, Buddhism/Confucianism in China and the Far East, Judaism and Christianity in the Middle East and Europe, and the animists and polytheists in sub-Saharan Africa. Muslims have lived in America peacefully for 100 years.
Muslims kill apostates. When Muslims convert to Christianity, such as the man who helped Pastor Terry Jones burn the Quran in Florida on March 20, other Muslims remain quiet. Thousands of Americans live peacefully in Muslim countries worldwide. If Muslims killed apostates, Christian missionaries would not have been able to proselytize and convert Muslims to Christianity in Muslim countries for centuries.
Muslim Americans hope that, with the al Qaeda chief’s demise, terrorism will subside worldwide and the fog of misconception enveloping Muslim Americans will slowly dissipate.
About the author: A Rhodes Scholar originally from Bangladesh, Fakhruddin Ahmed has lived on Cedar Court in West Windsor since 1985. His two sons, Zareef and Tamiz, studied at WW-P schools until the eighth grade and then transferred to the Lawrenceville School. Both Zareef and Tamiz are Eagle Scouts from West Windsor's Troop 40. Both were co-captains of Lawrenceville School’s cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams.
Zareef, a 2005 alumnus of Harvard, is graduating this year from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Tamiz graduated from Brown University in 2007, and now works for Google at San Francisco-Mountain View.
This op ed piece appeared originally in the Times of Trenton on Monday, May 9.