Archive for October, 2010
It’s been said that a liberal is just a conservative that hasn’t been mugged yet. Sometimes it takes something traumatic to wake us up to the realities of our situation, and to force us to rethink our beliefs and behaviors.
Americans are essentially civil and decent people and not prone to violent reactions, but now millions of Americans are being exposed to a profoundly radical and extremely distorted view of Islam, which is that 1) Islam is an evil religion; 2) it was born in the crucible of violence, and engenders violence in its followers; and 3) a significant number of American Muslims are actively working to undermine the government of this country, and to establish shariah law.
These ideas may sound outlandish and farfetched, but some of the major websites promoting such views get hundreds of thousands of visitors each month. The trouble with such misinformation is that when someone wants to learn about Islam and Googles, for instance, shariah law and women, they’re likely to see an image of a girl with her nose cut off. Worse yet, most of the top ten articles returned from such a search are not expository articles explaining what shariah actually is – they are articles propagating the idea that the shariah is evil.
Hence, even if people sincerely search for information about Islam, they are likely to get misinformation and anti-Islam propaganda. Moreover, even educated people are having a harder time sorting the wheat from the chaff, distinguishing what is accurate from what is propaganda against Islam. There are also a lot of very negative emails circulating on the Internet either misquoting Qur’an and hadith or quoting out of context.
In fact, if you walk into a bookstore today and simply browse under the subject of Islam, about half the books are anti-Muslim or written by apostates from Islam who actually hate Islam. If a person scans the shelves for a book on the Qur’an, the best looking book that catches their eye could very well be The Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, and so one starts to read it, and it distorts Islam using the sources of Islam, such as Qur’anic verses or hadith. The verses quoted are explained without historical context, and are used to distort the holistic message of the Qur’an.
I just returned from Princeton, New Jersey. I participated in a Catholic led interfaith service on the sanctity of life. I was invited to this by Professor Robert George, whom I got to know through the Witherspoon Institute. We had a wonderful conversation with a lively audience of what seemed to be mostly Muslims, both students at Princeton and others. Dr. George, to me, represents what is best in the conservative movement. He is a scholar who loves the Western tradition and is committed to a higher set of values than what is presented today as morality. He is also a wonderfully modest man, despite his remarkable intellect and knowledge, and represents real Catholic ethical commitment. He is genuinely dismayed by the attacks of certain segments of the conservative Christian right on Islam. As a devout Catholic, he understands how religion is threatened today by the profoundly secular mindset that has taken over. However, he also recognizes that just as the great faith of St. Augustine and St. Aquinas is today misrepresented in the press as a religion infested with pedophiles, so too, the great faith of our saints, Imam al-Ghazali and Fakhar al-Din al-Razi, is being misrepresented as a religion rooted in terror that produces violent followers thirsting after the blood of infidels. In fact, at the Princeton Chapel, where the service was held, I was shown a beautiful stained glass window representing Abu Bakr al-Razi with the basmallah written in Arabic script on the cathedral window.