5 myths about Muslims, Islam and jihad

In the wake of the recent attempted suicide bombing at the Wichita airport, I fear a new resurgence of Islamophobic sentiment. The actions of one man based upon his perception of an otherwise peaceful religion ought not to be generalized to an entire population, but that does seem to be the media’s special talent. So, in an attempt to provide the information the media much prefers to suppress, allow me to inform you: Terry Lee Loewen did not act under the edicts of Islam. To say that he was a radical Muslim is pushing the boundaries of the truth. While I do not wish to blaspheme by saying he was not a Muslim, I cannot reconcile his violent notions with the peaceful religion of Islam, and to even say that Loewen is a radical Muslim is to acknowledge his connection to Islam. The media has overly and incorrectly used the words “Islam,” “Muslims,” “radicals,” and “jihad” so much that they no longer represent their true meanings in their everyday usage.

Misconception #1: Muslims hate America.

It is a miniscule minority of extremists who believe America is the “spawn of the devil.” According to a poll by Gallup, 93% of Muslims do not support these extremist views or terrorism. Yet listening to some media stations, one would think all Muslims are terrorists. The truth, however, is that America is home to nearly 3 million Muslims, and of them about 2,790,000 fully support America. Islam promotes unity between people of all colors and religions. “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you,” (49:13). Islam teaches that all people should be accepting of every person, for after all they are human, too.

Misconception #2: Islam supports and encourages terrorism.

It is extremely important to note that Islam is a peaceful religion, despite any media sensationalizing. In fact the Qur’an “…decree[s] upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul… – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely,” (5:32). Islam discourages violence in every form and condemns it as a sin.

Misconception #3: “Jihad” means suicide bombing, death, violence, etc.

Contrarily, jihad means “the struggle” and is most commonly used in reference to each individual’s internal struggle towards salvation and away from the earthly temptations of Satan and damnation. “The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allah and His Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and their lives [in jihad] in the cause of Allah . It is those who are the truthful,” (49:15).

As for the idea that Islam promotes suicide bombing as a form of martyrdom that guarantees men virgins in heaven, this too is a common misconception. “…Do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful. And whoever does that in aggression and injustice – then We will drive him into a Fire.” (4:29-30). Suicide is explicitly prohibited in Islam; no exceptions. Suicide that would also cause innocent deaths is an even greater sin.

Misconception #4: Islam oppresses women and views them as inferior to men.

While this doesn’t necessarily directly relate back to Terry Lee Loewen’s heinous acts, it is important still to clarify: Islam does not disrespect women. Muslim women are not oppressed or inferior due to the edicts of their religion. Granted, in some Islamic countries, Muslim women are denied certain rights, but the actions of a group of people should not be generalized to an entire faith. To understand a religion, one should look to their book, not their people. While Saudi Arabia may only be now joining the modern era of gender equality, Islam was the first religion to explicitly deny men the right to oppress their female counterparts. Men cannot beat women. They cannot physically abuse them. Women have the right to ask for a divorce that carries equal weight as a man’s request. Women can bear witness to actions as men can. Consider this famous Islamic saying: “Heaven lies beneath your mother’s feet.” If Paradise lies beneath women, how can Islam oppress women?

Misconception #5: Muslims reject Jesus and worship “Allah,” a distinct entity from the Christian “God.”

Rather, “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for God. If one was to look at an Arabic translation of the Bible, they would note “Allah” frequently appears. Furthermore, Muslims believe there is only one true god whom all three monotheistic religions worship; thus the Jewish Yahweh, the Christian God, and the Muslim Allah are one and the same. The Qur’an tell Muslims to “say, ‘O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah,’” (3:64). Muslims also believe in Jesus and his virgin birth, but do not worship him as the son of God. Under Islamic creed, he is a mortal man of great moral fiber whom God made a prophet.

What I’m trying to say is that though some Muslims commit awful, heinous acts, it is not Islam (or the Qur’an) that commits those acts. We should always remember that there are people who commit awful heinous acts, regardless of the faith with which they identify themselves. After all, Timothy McVeigh, the man who bombed the FBI building in Oklahoma, was a terrorist but not a Muslim. Yes, there are Muslim extremists- such as Terry Lee Loewen- who have distorted the teachings of the Qur’an, even if they regard it as the ultimate authority… but there are similar extremists in every other religion, including Christianity. We simply cannot always take the prejudicial comments of the media and/or politicians at face-value. Consider this final statistic: 90% of all terrorist attacks are by non-Muslims.

Loewen asserted that

“the Muslim who is labeled ‘a radical fundamentalist’ is closer to Allah than the ones labeled ‘moderates.’ Just my opinion; if l’m off base, please set me straight.”

Well, Mr. Loewen, I hope this has set you straight. Islam does not hate America or encourage the attempted terrorism you perpetrated. So while you were correct that “the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet [demand] jihad and the implementation of Sharia… of all the Muslim Ummah (people),” you were pretty far off base about what jihad in and of itself is. Please reread the Qur’an and do not place your contempt for the American government under the guise of Islamic sentiment.