This was first published in the Summit Daily News as one of my Think Twice columns. Although it is not directly related to writing, it is a good case for the need to read and write diverse books, which has become a big push in the publishing world. More importantly, it’s important because of the insane prejudice against Muslims, sweeping our country.
When I lived in Denver, my neighbor was attacked by a Pit Bull. A rash of mauling continued and after the news covered the bloody attacks; Pit Bulls were banned from the city. At the time, I agreed with the decision, and when I moved to Summit County, I was appalled by the animal shelters that took in Pit Bulls, farming them out to families.
I will be forever sorry I felt that way and am ashamed and embarrassed that I exhibited such blatant prejudice. True, I had a bit of information to stand by—there were maulings, my neighbor did get attacked, and eventually they were banned from Colorado’s capital. However, I firmly believe the decision was made out of prejudice, fear, and misinformation. It’s not the breed; it’s the behavior by the owner that creates a vicious dog. I am now the proud owner a Pit Bull mix—the sweetest dog I’ve ever owned.
The misinformation we are given about dogs and sensationalized news is not so different than misinformation we are given about people. At the top of the list, is the information we are told to believe about Muslims, who many consider all ISIS terrorists. They are not. I lived with a Muslim family in Tunisia, and they were/are some of the gentlest, kindest folks on the planet. They practice a loving, compassionate lifestyle, and yes, they condemn ISIS.
According to a poll taken in 2010, 1.6 billion people follow the Islamic faith. The Pew Research Center projects that by 2050, the number of Muslims will be close to the number of Christians living on the planet. It’s high time we make a distinction between cult-like terrorists and devoted moderates.
In order to dismantle racism and prejudicial behaviors toward people with a different faith, we must educate ourselves about other religions. I published an award-winning book: Soul Sunday: A Family’s Guide to Exploring Faith and Teaching Tolerance and in the process, interviewed many religious leaders. I also researched different faiths to accurately explain the world’s largest religions. Here are some simple facts about Islam.
- It’s an Abrahamic religion; followers believe in the SAME God as Jews and Christians
- Moses and Jesus are considered important prophets
- Mohammed lived after Jesus and received a divine revelation, which became the Quran: the Muslim holy book
- Devout Muslims pray 5 times a day
- Charity is a pillar of the religion and an important part of daily life
The followers of ISIS remind me of people who followed Jim Jones and his religious sect rooted in Christianity and apostolic socialism, turned cult. ISIS is much larger, more terrifying, and no-less cult-like. Filled with insecurity and hate, they have a deliberate wish to destroy. There is a difference between ISIS, who has its roots based in medieval Islam turned cult, and other Muslims. To call all Muslims terrorists, like many do, is a blatant lie and at best, an outrageous statement.
Prejudicial beliefs based in ignorance and fear can lead to hate-filled practices that only inflame a misunderstood situation. It’s important to let go of fear and learn more about Islam. Understanding Muslims and the difference between them and the ISIS fanatics is crucial as we move forward in an undeclared war. We should not be fighting all Muslims, but be focused on eradicating ISIS.