By Arshad Yousufi
The terrorist attacks in Paris followed by a mass shooting in San Bernardino raised concerns in America about Muslims living in our communities. Responding to those concerns – or perhaps exploiting them – a candidate for the presidency declared that, if elected, he would bar all Muslims from entering the U.S. and possibly start a special database to track Muslims in the country.
The local Muslim community suddenly received an outpouring of support through messages and phone calls. We decided to show our appreciation by inviting those persons to an open house, some of whom said they knew only enough about Islam and Muslims to know that what some of the presidential candidates were proposing were impractical, unconstitutional and plain wrong.
We were pleasantly surprised when the 30 or so persons we had invited showed up with friends, relatives and church members – probably over 100 – leaving our little mosque with standing room only at the back. Bill Durland, Scott Olson and other members of PPJPC attended the open house to show support for the local Muslim community. Two local TV stations covered the open house and made it one of the leading stories in their evening news.
As they waited, visitors enjoyed the variety of ethnic food prepared by the women in the community, who explained the type of food and conversed with the visitors about their experiences. Kamel Elwazeir thanked the attendees for their support and show of solidarity. Colorado City Councilman Bill Murray also spoke, reminding people of the values that make America great.
The purpose of that open house was to educate people about Islam and why a true Muslim would not perpetrate acts of terrorism. The biggest concern people in this area express is that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) may influence Muslims in America to commit terrorist acts. That’s why the mosque leadership in Colorado Springs believes the most important thing for us to do is to educate people about Islam, American Muslims and their opposition to terrorism and ISIS.
While ISIS and al-Qaida are the enemy, the great majority of Muslims around the world stand with America in the war against extremists and terrorists, and have been on America’s side for decades: in the Cold War, against the USSR in Afghanistan, in Somalia (“Black Hawk Down”), in the first Gulf War, and in the current conflicts.
As patriotic Americans and practicing Muslims, we would work with law enforcement to stop any crazy confused Muslim who might be inclined to terrorism, if we came to know about him. The Muslim leaders regard it as important to educate the Muslim community about the false propaganda of ISIS. As American Muslims, we would appreciate the support and understanding of our fellow American citizens.
To that end, we would offer the following 10 things people – Muslim and non-Muslim – need to know about Islam and Muslim opposition to terrorism and ISIS.
Top Ten – Islam
1. The origins of Islam are in the Bible’s Book of Genesis – God promised Hagar and Abraham that He would make their son Ishmael a mighty nation, father of 12 rulers, whose descendants would be too numerous to count.
2. About 600 years after Jesus, God sent the Ishmaelites a prophet Muhammad, a scripture, the Quran, and a religion, Islam. Islam is a complete way of life, like Judaism and Christianity, and its principles are to be adapted to the era.
3. Allah is one of the Semitic names of the God of Muslims, the One God of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. We believe in “Our Father in Heaven” to whom Jesus prayed. The most important aspect of being Muslim is the relationship with God: to love God the most, to fear none but God.
4. Muhammad is like the other great prophets, Moses and David. Muslims have great respect and honor for him, and follow his example and teachings, and love him above all other persons.
5. The conquests in the early years of Islam of the Persian and Byzantine Empires were to fulfill God’s promise to make Ishmael a mighty nation, as were the later conquests of Spain and India. Forcible conversion is prohibited in Islam, so the majority remained Catholic in Spain and Hindu in India.
6. The Muslim-Ishmaelite civilization became great from 700–1,500 CE, making great contributions to mathematics, chemistry, physics, philosophy and literature that are part of Western civilization. It is unique in that it springs from one of the sons of Abraham.
7. Practically all Muslim nations declined and were colonized by Europeans from 1500–1950 CE and have become independent only in the last 70 years. They are relatively unstable.
8. Islam requires Muslim rulers to tolerate and protect non-Muslims living in their states. Jews, Christians and Hindus were integrated into the society in Spain, Egypt and India; recent conflicts are primarily over land and power. The life of every human being is sacred and religious minorities are to be protected, not persecuted.
9. Judaism and Christianity are recognized as religions ordained by God, and Jews and Christians are to be regarded as Alhe Kitab (“People of the Scripture/Book”), not as “infidels,” which is a Christian term in Latin used by Christians for anyone not a Christian. It is an article of faith to believe that Moses and Jesus are true prophets of God, and that the original Torah and Gospel are the word of God.
10. Men and women have different roles, responsibilities and rights, but are equal in the sight of God, as are all ethnicities and nationalities. The only superiority one may have over another is in righteousness. Muslim women were given property, inheritance and political rights over 1,400 years ago. Both men and women are required to behave and dress with modesty. Mary, mother of Jesus, is the example of chastity and piety for Muslim women.
More specifically, we also try to educate the community about the much-misunderstood concept of jihad. Here is another Top 10 list to consider.
Top Ten – Jihad, War & Peace, Terrorism, ISIS
1. Jihad means striving for God’s cause, and one of the examples of jihad in the Quran which Muslims are commanded to emulate is that of the disciples helping Jesus to preach the Gospel. Jihad does include fighting in situations such as self-defense. Some misuse it to mean Holy War, which is the Christian concept of a Crusade.
2. All human life is sacred, including those of non-Muslims, like the Yazidis. Referring to the killing by one of Adam’s sons by another, God declares that killing a person without just cause is like killing all humanity, and saving a person’s life is like saving all humanity. Prophet Muhammad taught that it is prohibited to harm a non-combatant even on a battlefield, even in the heat of battle.
3. Islam has balance in its rules of war: fight those who fight you, do not transgress limits. If the enemy sues for peace, make peace and do not violate treaties. Do not harm or attack those who do not threaten you and leave you in peace, fight against persecution and oppression. Prophet Muhammad forgave the Meccans who had made war against the Muslims. During the Crusades, when Saladin defeated Richard the Lionhearted, he spared the lives of Christian soldiers.
4. Extremism in Muslim countries has arisen as a reaction to the injustice, unemployment, corruption and exploitation by the small but powerful middle class, which took over power from the departing British, French and other colonial powers after their independence less than 70 years ago.
5. The seeds of Global Jihad were planted when Congressman Charlie Wilson and the CIA provided training and Stinger missiles to the mujahideen fighting the USSR in Afghanistan. After 10 years of a costly war and many body bags, the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan. America left the warlords to fight each other and, in the ensuing chaos, a group of seminary students calling themselves the Taliban stepped in to establish a state. They later supported one of the ex-mujahideen, Osama bin Laden.
6. Muslim countries have stood with America for decades, in the Cold War, the Afghan fight against USSR, the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and in the fight against al-Qaida and ISIS. American foreign policy has been inconsistent, supporting democracy only if it was pro-America, otherwise overthrowing democratically elected governments. While al-Qaida and ISIS are enemies, the great majority of Muslims stand with America.
7. ISIS is the religious equivalent of a drug cartel, using Islam as an excuse.
8. Muslims are not immune from mental problems. Just as America has its fair share of crazy persons, Muslims have more than their fair share of crazy persons. Like violent White Christian Supremacist cite Christianity, crazy Muslims cite Islam. Both are wrong to misuse religion to justify their crazy violent misdeeds.
9. While there are some bad Muslims, the great majority of Muslims are peaceful law-abiding citizens. Muslims are patriotic Americans and have reported those planning domestic terrorism, and continue to support law enforcement as citizens and Muslims.
10. Good Americans can help America by learning enough about Islam and Muslims to differentiate between good Muslims and bad Muslims, from Muslims who are friends of America and Muslims who are enemies of America. Treating all Muslims as the enemy would be a big mistake and would be detrimental to American interests.
Arshad Yousufi is the spokesman for the Islamic Society of Colorado Springs.