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Misconceptions About Islam and Violence

Published: 22/12/2011 07:23:00 PM GMT
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One of the most widespread misconceptions about Islam is that Muslims are violent terrorists. This is in large part due to the rampant Islamophobia in the media. Few other religions receive the kind of unfair generalization that occurs when someone from a Muslim background commits a terrible, violent act. One notable example in recent times was the atrocious massacre of young people in Norway, at the hand of an extremist right-wing fanatic. Muslims and Islam were being demonized in the media even before there was any information about the actual killer. Even after the killer was caught, some media outlets still continued to report a nonexistent Islamic connection.

If a white, so-called Christian, right-wing fanatic kills nearly a hundred children and teenagers, he is a lone madman – an exception. No news channel in its right mind would report about Christianity as a violent religion because of these kinds of acts. However, if a violent extremist practicing a perverted version of Islam sets a bomb, the media will not frame this as the act of a lone madman, but as a violent act representing all Muslims. White, Christian, right-wing terrorists and extremists are just as common as their equivalent Arab nutcases. They just receive a lot less attention by the media.

Another media lie that perpetuates this negative stereotype about Muslims is the reference to “Islamic countries.” It is important to understand that the rulers of many so-called Islamic countries simply use Islam for their own political gain. Making generalizations about Muslims based on the violent acts of power-hungry despots only perpetuates a negative image of all Muslims. As the revolutionary acts and protests of millions of young Muslims in 2011 demonstrated, Muslims do not agree with the violent acts of oppressive, extremist regimes.

Like the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, Islam also teaches to love your neighbor. The root of the word Islam itself means “peace,” one of the most important qualities of Muslims and Islam. In fact, when compared to the other great monotheistic faiths (Judaism and Christianity,) Islam has a much stricter view on when violence against others is justified. The Quran is extremely clear on this point; the only time a Muslim may fight is in self defense. In fact, considering that Islam requires making a constant devotion to God a central part of one's life, most Muslims live lives of non-violence and peaceful cooperation with their neighbors.

When talking about violence and Islam, one of the biggest misconceptions refers to the concept of Jihad. Few Islamic concepts have been as misunderstood by the West as the concept of Jihad. The literal translation of the word Jihad means “struggle.” This can be used to refer to a war against an invader or an attacker. However, the usual meaning of Jihad actually refers to an inner struggle, against our own selfish desires. In both cases, the goal of Jihad is not violence, but to attain peace.

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