I am not a Muslim, but over the years have had many friends who are. In recent weeks, I have become curious as to what it is that generates this giant black flag upon the people of Islam, so I have done some research.
To be Muslim in the 21st century has been a black ball in the eyes of a predominantly Christian world. On top of that, Islam has made a full 180 degree turn in much of the western world’s respect for the religion and culture. For those who don’t know, the Islamic religion dates back over two thousand years close to the beginning of Christianity.
There are many similarities between Judaism and Islam. Surprisingly, many Christians (Christianity having foundational roots in Judaism) aren’t even aware that Adam, Abraham, Jesus and Moses were considered prophets in Islam. Fundamentally, there have been very few differences between Judaism and Islam up until a few hundred years ago. Keep in mind, I am talking basic beliefs such as the belief in a single God and the belief in a set of moral codes (The Ten Commandments in Christianity and The Five Pillars in Islam). Both Islam and Judaism reject the belief of the Christian trinity doctrine and the divinity of Jesus. No big surprise there given that it was the divinity of Jesus that branched off Christianity from Judaism to begin with.
Singular Motives and the Fear in the Unknown
I have noticed a disappointing truth. Many people who think “Muslim,” automatically think only of bombings. This is true even more perhaps with Americans as we tend to believe that we are somehow disconnected from the rest of the world—sadly, this is carried to a great extent through the media. But I asked someone on the street recently what they immediately thought of when they considered Muslim/Islam. What was his reply? “You mean the people who crashed the planes into the World Trade Center?”
The reality is that few people seem to want to know what Islam is or what it is to be a practicing Muslim. It is perhaps this same fear or lack of desire to understand one another that has in turn fanned the extremists’ own resentment of western culture and desire to destroy those who do not follow their ways.
Repression, Lack of Equality in a Changing World
I truly believe that the Islamic extremists must be predominantly male, and here is why. In the Qur’an it basically states:
- Men are keepers and protectors of the home, managing their families and women, giving them a specific place in society.
- Women do not have the same rights as men under Islamic law. This is not that surprising, as many and most religions have shared the same belief over the centuries.
- A woman belongs to her husband, as a caregiver and keeper of the home and family. She is there to serve him and his needs, and to raise the family. She is only for his eyes alone, and out of respect for herself and her husband, she wears a veil or a Burka.
So it is generally believed that Muslim women should:
- Avoid standing on the balcony.
- Conceal herself while welcoming men at the door.
- Not go out after she has used perfume.
- Wear her dresses long and not imitate unbelieving women.
- Not speak in a loud voice.
- Not walk in the middle of the road.
- Not mingle with men or shake hands with them.
Now, are these views really that different from all other ancient religions? No, I don’t believe so. However, the fact that they have been maintained for so long in a world predominantly influenced by western society is unusual.
The Shores are Too Far From One Side to the Other
This sheds light at least as to why there may such a large gap between some Muslim people and our western society. Is the fact that western societies choose to be ignorant and not understand them and the Middle Eastern cultures in turn choose to see our willingness to allow our women to have wills of their own and believe in such things as the Doctrine of Trinity too large of a bridge to cross?
Trying to put myself in their shoes, it would be understandable that they might see our desire and acceptance to openly allow things like pornography and display the female body as offensive. For them it must be a massive turn from what they believe is morally right for a female and therefore, an insult. I’m not saying either side is totally right or wrong, but what I am saying is that they are such totally different worlds, is it even possible to meet in the middle?
Possible perhaps, but this requires compromise and understanding on both sides. It requires Muslims to understand that we do not view religion as having a steadfast hold on how a society is formed and functions, while it requires western cultures to respect that religious doctrine is the foundation of some cultures. Our country, the United States, was formed around the principle of being able to practice the religion we wanted at our founding—Christianity. It should be noted that at the time that the Quakers first migrated here, their belief and faith was such a fundamental part of their culture that it led to extreme circumstances such as the Salem Witch Hunt. We may have moved away from this close binding of religion and society because we now need to live in harmony with so many divergent religions in a confined geographic area, but we cannot forget that others out there are still living directly under that religious umbrella. It offers them structure, purpose and a sense of being.
Two questions might be raised. First, have we as a society lost something along the way because a singular, primary faith no longer flows through the veins of our country? Second, is it possible for Islam, Christianity and Judaism (as well as other religions) to find some middle ground, inclusive of those who choose to live under the direct law of their faith and those who have chosen to separate their faith from the law?