Islam: A misunderstood religion



ONE hundred years ago, there were only two mosques in the entire British Isles. Now there are hundreds of mosques, all very much in use and often full and overflowing for Friday Prayers.

Islam is spreading across the country, not by the sword, as so many fear, but during a time of peace.

As Muslims, we maintain constant and personal contact with Allah, whose perfection of design and creation we see all around if we would but look. No wonder that with Islam's emphasis on the above tenets, and the logical practice and common-sense outlook it promotes, Islam is a complete way of life that so many young(and not so young) people are seeking throughout the country.

However, along with this Islamic resurgence is an increasing Islamophobic attitude from the press, whose articles on the subject of Islam generally reflect a high level of ignorance, prejudice and fear. Insha'Allah(God willing), I will refute some of the arguments advanced by such writers and place them in perspective.

FUNDAMENTALISM

First, let us consider the expression 'Fundamentalist Islam', used to so often in the media. This usually refers to terrorist groups amongst oppressed Muslim populations. Sadly, therefore, all Muslims come to be labelled and regarded as troublemakers. But truly fundamentalist Muslims are simply ordianry people, endeavouring to live in peace, amity and tolerance with all, following the pure and simple rules of our faith. We in the UK should well know that the acts of Government and the wishes of the people are by no means always synonymous, and that people will react to this political situation with violence when talks are no longer perceived to work - but were the Serbs ever regarded as 'fundamentalist Christians' or the IRA as 'fundamentalis Catholics'?

JIHAD/MILITANT ISLAM

So many people seem to have a fear of militant Islam, envisaging a Muslim holding a sword in one hand and the Qur'an in the other-another piece of inaccurate and misleading imagery. One jouranalist this year conveniently took us out of context as evidence these words from the Qur'an: Fight and slay them the unbelievers wherever you find them(2:191) ...disregarding the fact that this verse referred to the pagan Quraish tribe of Mecca who had every intention of crushing the fledgling Muslim community. The passage clarifies this as continues:
if they attack you then slay them. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.(2:191-192).
...confirming that practising Muslims should not strike the first blow. And practising Muslims never have. The truth behind what really happened in the Crusades lies in history books, not in romantic novels!

TOLERANCE OF OTHER FAITHS

It was a pleasure to note also in the press that the Bishop of Jarrow studied the Holy Qur'an during the 40 days of Lent. As Muslims, we all pray most sincerely that he read it with an open, unprejudiced mind and that his reading proved truly enlightening and fruitful.

Sadly, on the other hand, we read of disapproving critisicm on the part of some of his fellow clerics, who felt that the Bible should have been adhered to exclusively. To us in Islam, such a closed-mind attitude is inexplicable. For Muslims, all knowledge imparted by Allah is good, and we can learn much from the Bible. To those who may still regard us with doubt and suspicion, we can only recommend that they follow the example of the Bishop and read the Holy Qur'an with an open mind-they may be very surprised at its content and realise how much Muslims and Christians have in common.

AND FINALLY...

I would like to add a personal note of gratitude to the many brothers and sisters I have met during my long journey t Shahada(acceptance of Islam) and afterwards-all, without, the nicest, kindest people ever encountered, regardless of race, colour, rank or worldly position; there is no snobbery in Islam! I am indeed truly happy to have been guided to the straight path (to which Allah guides whom He wills) and, while we all follow it in such mutual faith and trust, we have nothing to fear, nor has anyone else anything to fear from Islam. In the other words of the Holy Qur'an:
There is no compulsion in Religion; truth stands out clear from error.(2:256)

May the blessings of Allah be upon this humble attempt to cast a little light on Islam and to allay some of the fears, doubts and criticisms which are made about Muslims in the press.
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