“Whether most Muslims are peaceable is irrelevant. The fact is that fanatics rule Islam now & act-out what the Qur’an truly says …maul, march, & murder every Infidel if they won’t convert!” ― Gary Patton
In February this year I had an opportunity to interact closely with a practicing Christian philanthropist. He was an outstanding scholarship student who maintained a great record at his university. He was also a good person in terms of ethics and he seemed quite trustworthy. Unfortunately the image that I constructed of his in my mind was shattered when I interacted further with him. It took me five months to realize what he was truly like. This realization then consequently made me so upset for the simple reason that a Christian guy was my first close introduction to Christianity and he took just a few months and a lot of negative actions to distort the impression of practicing Christians from my mind.
But then why should I label all practicing Christians the same? Shouldn’t I be giving a chance to the adherents of a faith so close to mine who practice and reinforce among other things that: God is Love. Should I turn into a bigot and publish articles and books, fund blogs and create centers of hatred against all Christians? Does my not so pleasing encounter with a Christian turn me into a bigot and a Christianophobe?
The aforementioned details are essential for the realization that the habits, practices, cultures and lifestyles of a few adherents of any particular religion shouldn’t become an obstacle in our way for opening floodgates to hatred of all such people who subscribe to that particular faith. And similar is the crucial case of Ismalophobia.
Islamophobia is a form of racism, hatred and pure bigotry against Muslims, their culture and politics. Islamophobia has a pervasive influence in the world today, albeit it is more prevalent in the West. The aforementioned quote is by an Islamophobe and these are those individuals who practice Islamophobia to spread hatred and portray Muslims as intolerant people who dream to convert the whole of humanity through the weapons of fear and force into the fold of Islam.
Islamophobes capitalize on the ignorance of their audience to penetrate hatred against Islam and Muslims. But then what are the tactics of these Islamophobes and how can one become equipped enough to counter their agenda?
Imam Zia, a prominent Imam of Pakistani origin in the West has spent a considerable amount of time on all such areas that perhaps seem to fall in the no-go or the controversial zones and with remarkable research methodology has embarked upon an impeccable project that will definitely equip the Muslims with the sufficient knowledge they need to address the chain of FAQs from the other side. Another aspect of this project is allowing the non-Muslims who are seeking an honest analysis into the study of Islam to see what it really stands for.
Surely, one of the world’s fastest growing religions- Islam, has more to it than what the media and the right-wing neo-conservative authors and websites portray it to be. Thus, through this book, it seems that Imam Zia aims to bridge the gap between the Muslims and the non-Muslims by addressing those questions which have distorted the image of Islam and also by lifting the veil off those Islamophobes who seek to destroy all these bridges and instead aim at creating walls between themselves and all the Muslims whom they label as ‘the intolerant others’.
The foreword of the book is written by Pastor Bob Roberts who is the founder and Senior Pastor of the NorthWood Church, in Keller, Texas. Pastor Bob Roberts acknowledges that ignorance breeds hatred and communication and knowledge breaks all stereotypes and prejudices. He makes an interesting observation when he states that in his journey of discovering Islam by reading the Quran, he ended up becoming a better Christian and follower of Jesus (upon him be peace), “because it made me examine my own faith deeply”, he said. Thus consequently he came across Imam Zia and participated actively with him in various interfaith dialogues. Moreover, his valuable contribution to the introduction of this book includes the following important guidelines which will motivate anyone seeking an honest insight into Islam to read this book. He claims the following:
- There could not have been a finer book, to understand Islam from a Muslims’ perspective than this one
- Imam Zia is an honest man and does not work with rhetoric, rather, succinctly and lucidly gives honest answers to hard questions without making them sound “politically correct”
- There is an incredible accuracy about his statements and facts, for he gives evidence by connecting those statements to footnotes for the relevant article, report, website which he’s referring to and this consequently helps the readers to delve into their own independent research
- “This aim of this book is not to indulge a debate between religions; it is however an explanation of Islam from a young Imam’s perspective”
- “Imam Zia wrote this book to clear up misperceptions, and the ultimate point of that is that we can all get along in our city, our nation, and in every place in the world”
- “Imam Zia cares about Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and every other group of people, not just his own tribe of Muslims”
- “If we don’t know each other and we don’t get accurate information, we are subject to prejudice, hate, and fear that causes us to live at odds and not at peace in our cities together. This book provides a clear understanding of Islam and what it really teaches”
The aforementioned statements by Pastor Bob Roberts would encourage the Muslim reader to get hold of this book and learn how to deal with situations where questions for instance of free speech and the controversial cartoons based on the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are at stake. This book would be extremely beneficial also to non-Muslims as it would guide them to an authentic understanding of Islam. For the non-Muslims in the contemporary society, the media- including the mainstream newspapers, Islamophobe funded and neo-conservative, right-wing controlled TV & radio channels, websites, blogs and social media portray Islam as the deen (religion) of extremism whose worshippers are adherents of a faith which produces suicide bombers, hijackers, extremists and terrorists who aim at martyrdom in the name of killing thousands of precious, innocent lives just for the cause of Islam.
Imam Zia explains that with the unfortunate and tragic events of 9/11 things became challenging for the Muslims in the West. Overnight, a plethora of speakers became experts on Islam and their distorted views would tilt their audience into believing anything they would say about Islam and the Muslims. Thus began the series of misunderstandings which were instrumental in creating the gaps that exist even today between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. All this has also resulted in the generation of a new jargon which illustrates Islam’s infiltration in the ranks of the Western world. One may come across examples of such terms on social medial such as Twitter and Facebook and they include ludicrous phrases like Creeping Shariah and Stealth Jihad– “These have become commonly used phrases to denote the perceived threat of Islam taking over the USA”, he says. An astonishing fact that we are all oblivious to perhaps is that a large amount of money is spent on keeping Islam and Muslims negatively portrayed in all aspects of society.
Imam Zia begins his book with an introduction to Islam, stating thereby that Jesus (upon him be peace) is a revered Prophet in Islam and that one of the articles of faith is to believe in all the prophets sent by God. Similarly, Muslims, Christians and Jews all belong to one big extended family as they share common ancestors. Prophet Moses and Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all) descend directly from the lineage of Abraham’s two sons, Ishaque and Ismaeel. Thus at various places in his book, Imam Zia shares various similarities between Islam and other world religions. For instance, when he addresses questions pertaining to the dietary laws of the Muslims, he subsequently draws an analogy with Christianity where he mentions verses of the Holy Bible stating the impermissibility of consuming pork. Also, where he discusses polygamy, hijab, the age of Ayesha (upon her be peace) when she was married, cultural practices not a part of Islam but practiced by Muslims such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), honour killings, the limited choice exercised by women before they are married; Imam Zia takes a stand on refuting the allegations of the critics and wisely sifts the truth from falsehood.
There is also some humor in this book. Imam Zia wittingly addresses the concerns of the Islamophobes when they assert that Shariah is taking over the USA and Europe. For how can a minority which doesn’t even consist of 10% of the total population dominate the West in an attempt to enforce Shariah? Imam Zia also reveals the names of unsung Muslim heroes who assisted the Jews and saved their lives during the Third Reich. He quotes world renowned non-Muslim scholars and presents their arguments against the hullabaloo of the Islamophobes.
What do Muslims say about terrorism? Does Islam allow its adherents to kill every non-Muslim where they find them? What about all those “supposedly” violent verses of the Quran which so many websites quote? What do the non-Muslims have to say about Muhammad (peace be upon him)? Are there any websites that counter and expose the Islamophobes? All these and many more questions are addressed in this book in succinct chapters. A book review cannot do justice to the work and time the author has dedicated to his project, therefore this book is highly recommended to everyone and anyone who has doubts about the religion of Islam and its stance on global terrorism. It is recommended to those who want an insight into the intricate details of the verses of the Quran that people “cherry-pick” and misquote.
Imam Zia’s book is reader friendly. It comes with a list of recommended readings, has the ability of silencing the critics and in the words of Pastor Bob Roberts,” It is a rare book and one that I would strongly encourage you to read.”
Thus if I can open my heart to understand that all Christians are not like the one that I encountered, I hope you can to find place in your heart to realize that the adherents of a particular faith do not necessarily represent and are not reflections of the preaching’s of their religion.
Follow Imam Zia on Twitter: @ImamZia
His Website: http://imamzia.wordpress.com/
Link to the book on Amazon