‘Assalamu Alaykom:’ peace be upon you

YAZAN MEQBIL

Contributing Writer

yjmeqbil@goshen.edu

Perspectives-Yazan-by-Katie-McKinnell

Have you ever wondered why Muslim women wear head covers, or why they’re not allowed to drive in certain places? Have you ever thought why there are so many non-Arab Muslims? Did you know that there are Arab Christians and Arab Jews? If you’ve wondered any of these things, then you are in the right place!

Just think of the last time you saw an Amish woman, Amish man, a Catholic nun, a Greek Orthodox priest, an Orthodox Jew, or a Sikh wearing a turban.

All of these religious figures have dedicated their lives to the service of their religion, they do great work in helping people in need and most importantly, they are keeping an old religious tradition from going extinct in light of the rapid modernity of the world. I bet you didn’t think of any of these as a terrorist or as an oppressed person, correct? I don’t blame you.

We tend to look for differences rather than similarities for the people who don’t share the same beliefs and characteristics as we do. In fact, we are so focused on these differences that there are famous TV figures who spend hours every week arguing the validity of this religion and the awfulness of the other one. If you turn your TV to FOX News or CNN, you might find a long argument between five or six people sitting around a semicircular table arguing about Islam without even having Muslim representation.

You might hear words like Sharee’a Law or Allahu Akbar, without even an explanation of what these words mean. Sharee’a law is referred to as this dangerous law that is influencing terrorism and oppressing women. But that is not correct. The commands in the old testament are Sharee’a, the commands in the New testament are also Sharee’a. Sharee’a is an Arabic word that means law, just any law. In Islam there is nothing that’s specifically called Sharee’a law.

Just like Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and other religions, there are commands and orders for Muslims to follow. And Allahu Akbar is an expression that means “God is great.” Trust me, Muslims say it every time they eat good food, whenever they are happy, mad, eating, reading, celebrating and perhaps, when they fail their General Chemistry class!

Islam literally means peace and surrender. Muslims value the idea of surrendering to God, the creator. Muslims greet each other by saying Assalmu Alaykom, “Peace be upon you.” Thus, the concept of peace is embedded in Islam and forms a huge part of it. I was born Muslim. I was raised in a house that values religion and the concept of God. I remember my parents teaching me about Jesus and Abraham the same way they did when they taught me about Muhammad.

I never thought of any other religion as less than my own. I was born in a Christian hospital run by Catholic nuns just around the corner from where Jesus was born. I am not kidding!

Being an Arab and a Muslim are usually considered two faces for the same coin. Some people are ignorant and don’t know that there are Arab Christians and Arab Jews and that there are so many Non-Arab Muslims. In fact, Arab Jews and Christians were present thousands of years before Islam came to being, and yes, we make the same food, and we all have the Arab awesomeness and swag!

I am always asked questions about women rights, social structure and the connection between Islam and fundamental terrorist groups such as ISIS. To break down these complex issues, just keep countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran out of the picture. While these countries claim to be Muslim countries ruling with what the Holy Quran came with, they only represent their ideologies and practices. Women are allowed to drive, work, go out and don’t wear headscarves.

Islam does not force women to wear headscarves, and there aren’t any verses that prevent them from driving. In fact, in Tunisia, women have equal rights just like men, and Tunisia is a Muslim majority country. In Pakistan, a Muslim country, Benazir Bhutto (a woman) was the prime minister between 1988-1990 and 1993-1996. Turkey had a female prime minister, Indonesia had a female president, and Senegal had a female prime minister as well. All of these countries are of Muslim majority.

Islam does not promote violence. Allah, God, says in the Holy Quran: “Whoever kills a person unjustly, as if he killed all mankind.” (5:32) Terrorist groups are the byproduct of any ideology. People who use their ideologies in justifying the murder or harm of other people are terrorists. So, what about the so many Muslims who are attacking everyone in the name of Islam? Of course, they are terrorists, we already know that.

However, what we don’t know, is that Islam condemns their actions and doesn’t approve of what they do. In Syria, Iraq, Libya and Jordan, the vast majority of victims massacred by ISIS are Muslims. It is all about power and money, not about religion. The KKK, ISIS and Lehava are all terrorist groups that represent no one but themselves.

Therefore, let’s be smart, and ask actual Muslims about their religion. I will be here for two more years, ask me whenever you want!

Assalamu Alaykom. Don’t worry – it just means peace be upon you.

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