Today, while I was at the dojang for Tae Kwon-Do with Liam, an incident occurred that really cheesed me off.
During a discussion among a few parents that started about health care reform and then ranged to bad presidents, impeachment, and waterboarding, the opinion was put forward that "Islam is the religion of 'convert or be killed.'"
For those of you that don't know, I've lived in a predominantly Muslim country and been friends with everyday Muslim people. I am not ignorant of the religion and it absolutely sends smoke out my ears to hear opinions like this one. I've heard it since the 9/11 attacks and it is ignorant, racist, and ridiculous.
I cannot sit silent when I hear such things.
"Actually," I replied, "that is not what Islam teaches. I have lived in an Islamic country and that is not what the Koran teaches."
Then I stood up and walked out.
It generally seems to be the case that people who spout such opinions like to conveniently forget a few things. First of all, Christians can't claim a peaceful history. Have these people ever heard of the Crusades? The forcible retaking of Spain? The Inquisition? The history of Christianity has been just as bloody, if not more so, so there is no high horse on which to sit on that account.
Also, Christians have just as many fundamentalist nutjobs as any other religion. That is essentially what Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups are. Hatred is not what mainstream Islam preaches, teaches, or practices. If any of the people claiming that Islam is a religion of "convert or die" took an even cursory look at the Koran they would be disabused of their opinions in short order.
Furthermore, despite many terrorists' association with a religion few in this country take the time to understand, there are grievances that go far beyond a basic difference in belief system. Our government has done things over a long span of time to upset these people and it is only natural for them to be disgruntled by that. It in no way excuses terrorist action as retaliation but given the history is it really any wonder? Many people want to act like the United States is innocent and we need to understand that we are not and that we have our part in the way things have transpired. Again, there is still no excuse for things like 9/11 but we would make far greater progress to making peace if we could understand and accept our own culpability.
We were a country founded on the tenet of religious freedom but too many of us say "freedom of religion" and mean "freedom of MY religion." We must respect one another, learn from one another, and build upon our commonalities instead of dwelling on our differences. Beyond that, we must reject the notion of religious persecution wherever we come across it.