"The goal, said Dr. Iqbal, is to persuade people of other religions to try to understand Islam and 'build on our similarities rather than exploiting minor differences and promoting tension and hatred.'" It all sounds so very high-minded, and pre-emptively smears those who might point out that Dr. Iqbal and his friends have been somewhat less than forthcoming about certain unpleasant aspects of Islam, particularly as touching upon jihad and Islamic supremacism -- why, such people are just "promoting tension and hatred."
It's very skillfully done, really, and not just in Youngstown, Ohio. Is it "promoting tension and hatred" to point out that Islam has a martial and supremacist tradition going back to the Qur'an and Muhammad, and that jihadists use that tradition today to gain recruits among peaceful Muslims? CAIR and others would have you think so, and have successfully cowed the mainstream media into thinking so too -- with both liberal and conservative spokesmen fearing to discuss the connections between Islam and violence, for fear of offending Muslims and being seen as "promoting tension and hatred."
But the truth is just the truth. It is not bigoted or multicultural or blue or green, it is just reality. The truth does not become false because some people say it is bigoted. If it is true that Islam has core traditions of violence and supremacism, and that the jihadists use them to promote violence, then it does no favor to peaceful Muslims to pretend that they don't exist. Rather, it becomes all the more urgent to point them out, so as to aid those peaceful Muslims in genuine efforts at Islamic reform. You cannot reform what you are pretending does not need reform.
And if Dr. Iqbal's clarification of misconceptions in turn needs clarification and completion itself, is it an "promoting tension and hatred" to provide that clarification and completion? I submit that it is not.
"Mosque tour gets questions answered," by William K. Alcorn for the Vindicator (thanks to Twostellas):
YOUNGSTOWN — Muslims are just like anybody else, said Saeeda Yasmin Ghani, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown.
Indeed, a major purpose of a public open house Saturday at the Masjid Al-Khair mosque on Homewood Avenue was to demonstrate to the community the similarities between Muslims and people who belong to other religions.
"We want the community at large to be aware that the Muslim community exists here and has for 40 years," Ghani said.
"We are peace-loving and ask that people not condemn the whole Muslim nation because of a few fanatics," she said as the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., nears.
"That was a horrendous act ... for which there was no justification," Ghani said.
Good. The whole Muslim nation shouldn't be condemned because of a few fanatics. But what is the whole Muslim nation doing to stop more Muslims from joining those fanatics? Can the whole Muslim nation do this without confronting the jihad ideology proffered to peaceful Muslims around the world by those few fanatics? Also, what is the meaning of this locution, "the whole Muslim nation"? If Islam is a nation, what is its relationship, or the relationship of the citizens of that nation, to the United States and United States citizenship?
There are major misconceptions about Islam, one of which is that people see it as a strange religion, when it really is a continuation of Judaism and Christianity. There are many similarities, said Dr. Khalid Iqbal, who conducted tours of the mosque during the open house.
Dr. Iqbal does not seem to have informed his listeners that Islam is not solely a "continuation" of Judaism and Christianity, but a replacement and repudiation of them, since only "unbelievers" believe in the divinity of Christ (Qur'an 5:17) and both Jews and Christians are accursed of Allah (Qur'an 9:30).
I suspect that Dr. Iqbal and others would accuse me of "promoting tension and hatred" by mentioning these things, but nota bene: they are in the Qur'an, and those verses are not rejected or abrogated; they form part of core, mainstream Muslim belief about Judaism and Christianity. I didn't put these things in the Qur'an, or make them part of mainstream Muslim belief. If Dr. Iqbal really wants to clear up misconceptions, why doesn't he deal realistically with the existence of such material in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition, showing why its presence doesn't preclude respect for non-Muslims as human beings? If he discussed it and offered some explanation, certainly he would have a much stronger claim to be clearing up misconceptions fully and honestly.
A major point of discussion is whether Muslim women are oppressed by the religion.
To the contrary, said Dr. Iqbal, a pediatrician. Muslim women had rights long before other religions even thought about it, such as the right to own property and to divorce.
Muslim women hold important jobs in the worlds of work and politics, such as Ghani, who leads the Youngstown Muslim community, Dr. Iqbal said.
"Certainly not," said Ghani, when asked if Islam oppresses women.
Ghani, administrative director of the laboratory at St. Elizabeth Health Center, said Islam respects women. In areas where women are not respected — for instance, in Saudi Arabia, they are not permitted to drive — it is the culture, not the religion, she said.
Modesty is the reason men and women do not pray together in the kneeling prostrated position, Dr. Iqbal said. In the Masjid Al-Khair mosque, the women's' prayer area is separate from the men's. In other temples, however, they may pray in the same room side by side, but not one behind the other, he said.
There doesn't seem to have been any mention of Qur'an 4:34, the notorious "wife-beating" verse, or 2:282, which values a woman's testimony as half that of a man, or the many other passages which do foster the oppression of women. Here again: is it "promoting tension and hatred" to point out that they exist, and that Muslims read them and take them to heart, or is it a necessary component of any actual dialogue?
Another major misconception is that Muslims use violence to get their way, Dr. Iqbal said.
He said Muslims believe so strongly in social justice and fairness and equality between human beings that when that belief cannot be accomplished through peaceful means, the use of force is justified.
For example, when Sadaam Hussein of Iraq invaded Kuwait, it became necessary to use force to get him out. Islam, in general, supported that effort in the first Gulf War, he said.
But, when it comes to matters of belief and religion, Islam does not encourage violence, Dr. Iqbal said.
There are so many verses of the Qur'an that spring immediately to mind as encouraging violence -- 8:12, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4, 2:190-193, 8:60, etc. etc. etc. -- that this does seem, I'm sorry to say, to be staggeringly disingenuous. Also, to say that it is a "major misconception" that "Muslims use violence to get their way" is simply false: Muslims do use violence to get their way -- not all Muslims, to be sure, but there have been thousands of violent jihad attacks around the world since 9/11, and every one was an example of a Muslim using violence to get his way. Maybe they were all misusing Islam -- it would be refreshing if Dr. Iqbal had explained to his audience how they are misusing it, and what efforts he and his companions are making to teach against this interpretation among their fellow Muslims.
Among the non-Muslim visitors at the open house were friends, Nancy Schulz of Canfield and Cathy Reinard of Youngstown, and Nancy's daughter, Erin Kriss of Austintown.
"After all the stuff you hear and read [about Muslims], we wanted to come and learn for ourselves," Schulz said.
"It makes sense," said Kriss, after learning why Muslim men and women pray separately. She found it amazing that the Quran, the Muslim's holy book, has never changed, while there are several versions of the Christian Bible.
This is da'wa, not fact. There are actually several versions of the Qur'an still extant (see Toby Lester's 1999 Atlantic Monthly article for details), and the Bible variants are textual minutiae, not the doctrinal upheaval that traditional Islam envisions: that the early Christians altered their Scriptures to deify Jesus and remove references to Muhammad. That Islamic faith claims about the Qur'an and the Bible would be offered on this "outreach" night as fact -- and swallowed by the credulous and uninformed -- also suggests that the intent here was not openly to explain misconceptions in a spirit of peaceful coexistence, but something else altogether.
However, she thinks the explanation that Muslim women are treated equally "falls a little short," however.
"Muslim men put women on a pedestal and think they are doing something good, but maybe they are really limiting them," Reinard said....
The goal, said Dr. Iqbal, is to persuade people of other religions to try to understand Islam and "build on our similarities rather than exploiting minor differences and promoting tension and hatred."
I would be all for people of other religions understanding Islam. It would be helpful in that understanding if presentations like this one were a bit more forthcoming about the reasons why such presentations have to be held in the first place.