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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Christian/Western Perceptions of Islam- No Change

I recently revisited a Christian website. Not a random one, one that has good scriptural stuff in general. I'm not going to name it; I don't want to bash it or anything. I just think we should think about this. The Media section is just out of control. It is supposed to be a place to discuss Christian topics and perspectives on things in the media, I think. Often, what gets posted is simply a link that portrays our government or someone of another faith mistreating Christians or denying them rights. Not always, but frequently, the target is Islam and Muslims.

When you post a link about honor killing or a Muslim cutting off a Christian's hand, etc with no explanation, what exactly are you hoping to achieve? Are you alerting Christians to a danger you think is real and imminent? Are you trying to make Christians feel better by putting down others? Are you trying to inspire Christians to overcome adversity- real or perceived? I just can't see what is trying to be accomplished by these ostensibly well-meaning individuals. Why people insist on "proving" the majority of Muslims are violent or that those truly following Islam are the terrorists or that Islam is not a religion of peace or Allah is different than God- instead of comparing and contrasting Islam with the Bible is beyond me.

Right off the bat before looking at the link and such in a detailed way, I always think about Matthew 10:28:

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

So, someone hates us or wants to kill Christians? What of it? Should we not just live as we are called- not antagonistic, but not silent, either?

Then there are the facts. Those pesky facts. Some people have little use for them, but I want to know what's going on.

We see a very small percentage of Muslims committing terrorist acts in the news and in movies. This is where most of us form our opinions of Muslims and it is not representative of the majority of Muslims out there. I know many will take issue with that statement, but then that is essentially the reason for the post. :)

Some may call me a Muslim 'apologist' and wonder why I care about Muslims rather than the Christians being tortured for their faith around the world by authoritarian regimes. The answer is simple. We have no wrong idea about these Christians, as we do with Muslims. We know it's going on. It's wrong. It should stop, yes, but Christians understand the greater battle is the heart, the spiritual, so if they are faithful, the battle is won regardless of whether they are free to practice or in prison for it. The Christian perception of Muslims may not matter to some, but I find the subject generally approached in a mainly unChristian manner. It bothers me. It's inconsistent and wrong and puts up walls where there need not be, which should matter if you want as many people to go to heaven as possible. That's my thinking, anyway.

Another note- In reading some of these links written by Muslims, they do have some misconceptions about Christianity, at least Christianity as I know and practice it. Granted, they may be getting their info from Calvinists or Catholics neither of whose doctrines I subscribe to, but I still think it is important for us to change the prevailing attitude, ask questions or at least refrain from the sweeping negative generalizations about them regardless of what's said of us.

Now on to the links. This turned out to be more than I thought it was going to be...

Silent No More: Confronting America’s False Images of Islam, by Paul Findley is a good book. The title is pretty self-explanatory...

Edward Said wrote Covering Islam. I think I have it, but I either haven't read it or can't remember it. That's why I've been making a few notes when I've read something in the past months. The book I remember reading by him was packed with excellent facts and research, but was a little hard to get through despite my interest.

Here is a PBS piece looking at some myths we cling to about Islam:


The general public and many academics have several preconceived notions about Islamic Law. One such notion is that Islamic judges are bound by ancient and outdated rules of fixed punishments for all crimes. This paper explores that idea and looks at other myths in an attempt to present Islamic Law from a non-biased view of Shar'iah Law.

Here are a few things often attributed to or blamed on Islam that are actually due to other influences:

Honor killing:

However, many in the West also misunderstand and conveniently condemn honor killing as a practice of Islam. The mistake with this condemnation is that Islam does not permit or condone honor killing. However, it is precisely this misunderstanding and ignorance that allows many in the West to participate in a climate of hate, mistrust and even the idea of war against all of Islam.


How did the stereotypes come to be?

This site talks about Arabs in the media, but is pretty extensive, so it goes into Islam as well.

Also a good site about how (which ways) Islam did or didn't influence Arab societies and how that it perceived in the West.


Bird in his book, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate, talks about the political vacuum in Egypt being filled by militants. He also talks about Saudi Arabia and how that society was influenced by Wahabiism. He explains how the US supported the royals and dictators to keep oil revenue (democratic systems would probably nationalize the oil which would be bad for us) as opposed to supporting those who desired some form of democracy. These royals and dictators allied with hard line religious leaders in order to keep control and avoid democracies that would send them packing, with US blessings in many cases.

I read book recently, I believe it was Bird's (not sure, though), that explained Sharia'a law better than any other American. Generally, it is associated with dictatorial regimes slicing off heads and hands of dissidents. In reality, it is quite a bit different. He explains how a man killed another man in a car accident. They guy would have probably gone to jail in our society and both parties would live with guilt, anger and loss. Under Sharia'a law, however, an agreement was made that since the guy killed was supporting his parents and I think a sibling, that the offender was required to provide for this family. In our society, it would be acceptable to hate the guy who killed that son. There, the family of the guy who was killed, for their part, considered him in as a son.


Some think Islam is the problem and view states in predominantly Muslim areas as failed states. Mostly, though, they are pointing to leaders that claim to be following Islam, but aren't applying it properly or the people or rulers are calling tribal traditions Islamic.

The air is thick with theories which claim that Islam has been paralyzed by a deadening obscurantism since the twelfth century, and this paralysis will only end when Muslims decide to replace Islam with secular humanism. It is time these theories were deconstructed.


Here's a site talking about democracy being an Islamic value.

So, all else equal, Muslims today ought to endorse the form of government that is most effective in helping them promote these values. ...

Several considerations suggest that democracy—and especially a constitutional democracy that protects basic individual rights—is that form.

Here's a site talking about feminism and Islam. It is rather interesting that many Muslim women's values actually line up with Christian women's, despite our efforts to villify them for their lack of freedom.

Jehan Sedat had a good discussion of feminism and Islam in her book, My Hope For Peace.

On a funny and almost unrelated note, I read Jehan Sadat's book, which of course held Anwar Sadat up as the best Arab leader in history, right before reading Kai Bird's Mandelbaum Gate. Apparently, Bird is a big Nasser fan. That was interesting.

Back to Islamic feminism...two NPR pieces, probably inspired by France's move to try and ban the veil:

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