The tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001, have set in motion a chain of debates regarding the position of the Islamic faith in Western society, with disputed continuing to this day. In his conversation with Bill Moyers, Imam Zaid Shakir (a well-known Muslim religious leader) was presented with a challenge to defend his faith almost immediately after the events of 9/11.
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Despite the fact that Shakir expressed criticism of the extremist Muslim movements that took the lives of the innocent people in the name of Allah, the Imam spoke in support of being devoted to the religion that required the following of strict rules. This points to the idea that Islamic faith requires followers to be dedicated to its teachings, however peaceful or extremist they are, which means that depending on the way individuals choose to follow their faith, the outcomes can be different.
Islam vs. Other Religions
If to compare three religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, it is evident that all of them were developed on the basis of the idea that there is only one God. However, what is more, interesting is that all of them had the same origin. For instance, the pagan worship called the Cube preceded the emergence of Islam; and one of the hundreds of idols that the religion contained represented Jesus, a Christian deity (Aslan, 2011). This means that religions that the society perceives as opposing each other had appeared from the same source. Despite the fact that there are some similarities between the mentioned religions, it cannot be stated that all of them share the same views on democratic values, human rights, and pluralism.
Is Islam a Religion of Peace?
If to go back to the interview with Imam Shakir, it is important to mention that Islam cannot be referred to as a religion of peace since the 9/11 bombers did identify as Muslim. He claimed that there was a double standard associated with the judgment of the Islamic faith: there were peaceful believers that obeyed the rules laid out in the Quran, and there were radical extremists that used their religion to justify the harm they could do to the society. Such a double standard led to the idea that there were “good” and “bad” Muslims, with the latter not being “real” believers.
Although, the same cannot be stated about Christians or Buddhists. There is a differentiation between good and bad people in general, regardless of the faith to which they ascribed. Imam Shakir also spoke about the superiority of Muslims that did not drink or visit bars. This idea seemed confusing since comparing not drinking and not wearing a suicide vest is similar to comparing apples and oranges. If all Muslims were similar to Shakir, then it could be possible to develop an Islamic society where the laws of democracy, human rights, and pluralism prevailed. However, as long as there are Muslims that turn to extremism to push their religious agenda, the development of a pluralist Islamic society will be impossible (Johnson, 2009).
In summary, the Islamic faith did have a similar origin to other religions such as Christianity or Judaism, although, the way in which it has developed makes it a lot more different. The extremist agenda that some Muslim groups support still troubles the society to this day, so it is important to understand the nature of their religion in order to support those Islamic believers that choose peace and obedience over chaos and violence.
Aslan, R. (2011). No got but God: The origins, evolution, and future of Islam. New York, NY: Random House Publishing.
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Johnson, S. (2009). Is the deradicalization of Islamist extremists possible in a secular society such as Britain? POLIS Journal, 2, 1-79.