Here’s a feelgood story from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about clearing away post-9/11 misconceptions about Islam. Of course, the main misunderstanding is about jihad:
On Sept. 11, 2001, just after he watched the World Trade Center towers fall on television, Aly Nahas received a call from a rabbi offering him shelter.
The rabbi was a friend of Nahas’ who was worried that people might take out the horror of that day on local Muslims. But rather than seek shelter, Nahas rushed to the Islamic Center of Rochester, where he was a volunteer.
When he got there, his rabbi friend, two priests and a minister were waiting. Within two hours, the group held a news conference to assure the public that the Muslim community condemned the attacks. In the year and a half after Sept. 11, Nahas gave 45 lectures on Islam. . . .
Carman hopes that the two-hour sessions, which include an hour lecture as well as time for questions, help demystify Islam. One important misconception, he said, is about jihad. The Egyptian-born Nahas said that jihad, often used synonymously with terrorism, essentially means to strive to better oneself.
That’s wonderful. I am sure that Nahas’s non-Muslim audience will go away feeling reassured. I hope that the Rochester paper will run a follow-up story about Nahas’s activities among Muslims, in which he convinces them that the radical understanding of jihad as violence against unbelievers is wrong on Islamic grounds. I wonder what Nahas would say about the almost daily stories posted at Jihad Watch in which Muslims commit violence and call it jihad. Until those Muslims are confronted and that understanding of jihad definitively refuted, dialogues like the one described in this story are essentially meaningless.