In an interview with Bill Moyers, Imam Zaid Shakir, a renowned American-bred Muslim religious leader tried his best to defend the religion of Islam a year after 9/11 changed world history. Shakir was skillful in his defense, saying that Islam’s core values are similar to that of America and the Western world. Shakir was critical of the suicide bombers and the extremists destroying the lives of innocent civilians. However, as he kept talking about his holy and devout life, it became more difficult to erase the idea that he was talking about faithful followers of Islam. In the end, it was made clear that Islam encourages extreme and zealous devotion from both peaceful and violent followers.
The Essence of the Faith
Exchange students and ordinary students immersed in the study of Western civilization cannot escape the impact of the phrase: Judeo-Christian values. This is a set of core values that finds its root-cause in Christianity. Since Christianity was founded using principles and ideas from the Jewish religion, it became natural to coin the concept of Judeo-Christian values. It is on top of this moral and legal foundation that Americans and Europeans constructed the so-called Western world.
Comparing Allah, the God of the Jews and Christians
Reza Aslan pointed out that at the heart of Islamic devotion is a once-upon-a-time center of pagan worship called The Cube. Before Islam took over, this structure contained hundreds of idols of the ancient world from Assyria to Greece. However, it is interesting to note that one of the idols in The Cube represented Jesus, the god-incarnate deity of the Christians (Aslan, 2011). A closer look into Islam makes it easy to see that the God of Muslims, Christians, and Jews are one and the same.
Democratic Values, Pluralism and Human Rights
Shakir’s confession’s betrayed the real nature of Islam (Now With Bill Moyers, 2002). It is not accurate to say that it is simply a religion advocating peace, because Shakir cannot deny the Muslim identity of the 9/11 terrorists. In fact, he accepted the double standard used against him and fellow Muslims because of the impact of 9/11. Shakir tried another strategy, he said that the suicide bombers and religious extremists are unstable people. He carefully veiled his statements to say that these men were not really good Muslims compared to him. One can argue that he was boasting about his good works and piety. He wanted the world to see that he had more self-control, alluding to the idea that he does not go to bars or other places that holy men like him are not supposed to enter. However, his argument made no sense, because thousands of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and non-religious people enjoy a drink at the bar, but they do not fancy the idea of wearing a suicide vest. Therefore, in theory, it is possible to construct an Islamic society founded in values associated with democracy, pluralism, and human rights, because of men like Shakir. However, Islam is a religion that inspires and encourages zealous devotion that in turn encourages the development of religious fundamentalists and religious extremists. Thus, it is extremely difficult to achieve this goal.
Shakir’s interview and Aslan’s book revealed the similarity between Islam and Judaism. In the same manner, this religion also shares common ground with Christianity. Thus, Muslim followers have the same capacity to do good. However, Shakir and Aslan cannot deny the Muslim identity of suicide bombers and the murderers destroying lives in the name of Islam. It is therefore fair to say that Islam is a religion that encourages two kinds of followers. The first group impresses and persuades people through holy obedience. The second group forces others to follow Islam through violent force.
Aslan, R. (2011). No got but god: The origins, evolution, and future of Islam. New York, NY: Random House Publishing.
Now With Bill Moyers. (2002). Zaid Shakir on being Muslim in America [Video file]. Web.