When Islam was presented to me, I was presented a religion of worshiping One God alone and as a practical solution for mankind’s social ills. It was a road map for improving our lives. I was told about an Islam that is about togetherness, sharing, caring and strengthening familial bonds. An Islam that was about creating communities, doing business together and uplifting people.
I was told about an Islam that promoted the equality of all men and no person is superior to the other except by his righteousness. An Islam that eschewed racism. I was told about an Islam that was about kindness to neighbors regardless of religion. Islam and Muslims were known as a force for good in the community and a sign that things are going to be cleaned up. This is the Islam that I know and love. An Islam of hope, kindness, concern and mercy. An Islam that promoted a mosque that affected the community around it in a positive manner and met the needs of a broken people. An Islam that was part of the community and not apart from it. An Islam that provided a place for outsiders.
A Muslim was a symbol in many neighborhoods – American neighborhoods– of standing for justice and making improvement in one’s life. A Muslim man was the personification of manly pride and responsibility to his family and his community. I was told of an Islam that spoke of God’s infinite love and mercy for His creation. I was told of an Islam that inspired people to make positive changes to their lives. I was told of an Islam that offers to serve others and offered solid solutions to problems. All of these things were attractive and this is the Islam that people were flocking to in the 1990’s. This is the Islam I accepted.
Now all of those things are a “waste of time.” This new “Islam” is about hate, killing, rape and murder. I am told by a person visiting my blog that I should be praising the daily carnage that I see on the news and to believe in wacky conspiracy theories and blood libel. I have been accused several times – by my co-religionists – of being a spy and a closet Zionist.
Now I am told that I never understood Islam and that the things I mentioned above represent an “American” Islam and hence bidah (rejected innovation) and that I should accept this “real Islam.” I see people trying to convince me that Islam is actually not about the things I mention above. No! Islam is about hate. You don’t pray for people, you pray against them and invoke the worst curses you can think of upon them. You don’t talk about God’s Love, you constantly talk about His wrath. We should be fire breathing dragons that hate and invoke curses upon people.
I am now told by these people that there is no family togetherness or community building in Islam. Oh and by the way, that thing about all human beings being equal except by righteousness? Cancel that! The Arabs are superior to all men. They now tell me that Islam is firmly grounded in a medieval social order where Arabs are on top and I (as a black) am on the bottom.
I find it very strange that I would be criticized by any Muslim for my rejection of throat cutting, rape and murder as being a part of Islam as if it were a pillar of some sort. I am not familiar with this Islam that calls for a lack of love and human emotion, but now this is what we hear. Slavish dogmatism, slogans and a culture of death.
Because of the lack of emphasis on self improvement (denounced as alien to Islam) and cloaking failure as “religious commitment” a Muslim is now one that is mired in many of the social ills that the rest of community suffers from. Because of this new “Islam,” Islam has begun to cease to be a force for positive change in the inner cities.
It has gotten so bad that a person will say to a Muslim: “you are too rational to be a Muslim” or they think that he is about to leave Islam or it will be said to him “you are not like them.” I am finding more Muslims from the 90’s that are even beginning to think a “bait and switch” has been pulled on them and are confused because of the mass chaos set off by the Bin Ladens of the world.
This is why I reject this “Islam” of carnage, irrationality, social disorder and murder. I accepted an Islam of problem solving, love and rational thought. That is an Islam that people can accept and live with.
That is Islam.
Tariq Nelson is a Muslim activist that lives in Northern Virginia.