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From PB Post: ‘Islam, by defintion, rejects terrorism’

August 22nd · No Comments · Catholic, Chiara Lubich, Christian, Focolare, Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Islam, Jewish, Muslim, Palm Beach Post, Prophet Muhammad, Quran, Ramadan

This column also was reprinted in our national newspaper the Muslim Journal. Note the date:

Islam, by defintion, rejects terrorism

By C.B. Hanif

The Palm Beach Post

October 15, 2006

As one who grew up rooting for Tarzan and Cheetah to whip up on my Afro-wigged cousins portraying Hollywood’s idea of Africans, I can understand how people buy into social myths of one sort or another. And having been as clueless as most folks regarding religious traditions beyond the ones with which we grew up, I am not surprised to hear certain perceptions some folks have of Muslims.

But it is curious to observe otherwise rational people defining Islam by those who behave opposite of what the faith prescribes. To confuse the lunatic fringe with Islam’s mainstream is where much of the discourse on significant current events gets off track.

So as a Muslim heading down the home stretch of our month of rededication and dawn-to-dusk fasting called Ramadan, it is heartening that despite the barrage of guilt by association of Muslims as terrorists, many people know better.

Newsweek reports ( that thousands of members of the Roman Catholic peace group Pax Christi USA are fasting for Ramadan. And that especially since 9/11, “non-Muslims have fasted to express political solidarity with Muslims, to increase awareness of global hunger, as a spiritual discipline, or to strengthen interfaith friendship.”

Rather than campaigning for folks to change their religion, that sounds like encouraging more who claim one to live their religion.

It also suggests fewer folks are buying when a Tom, Dick or Hanif claims the cultural practices or politics of his native Egypt, Sudan or Brooklyn represent Islam. And that more people are correctly associating Muslims with the authentic sources of the faith: the Quran and true example of Mohammed the prophet.

Another take on fasting friends came in the letter my close friends in the Focolare lay Catholic community ( just shared from their Center for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome. It announced that members of the movement, along with fellow Christians and folks of other religions and convictions who would like to do so, will “be united with you in a day of prayer and fasting for peace,” as proposed by other organizations, on Oct. 20, the last Friday of Ramadan.

The letter also conveyed the hopes of Focolare leader Chiara Lubich that, “as our spirituality suggests, every obstacle may become a springboard toward a much deeper brotherhood among us.”

The statement exemplifies how when I’m among members of that worldwide, multiethnic, multi-religious family that lives like the first Christians, I hear the articulation of my own spirituality as a Muslim coming back at me in different language. So much so that I realized days after a recent Focolare meeting in Hialeah that Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on Islam had not even come up.

I’m with the Muslims who join the pope in calling for an end to all religiously motivated violence and persecution in some so-called Muslim societies.

One interesting analysis, however, comes from journalist, peace activist, former member of the Israeli Knesset and self-described atheist Uri Avnery. On “Mohammed’s Sword” ( view/full/35746), he wrote that:

“The story about ‘spreading the faith by the sword’ is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims — the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions.”

But those are points for dialogue among our responsible religious leaders. Down on our level, familiarity is breeding knowledge, respect and love. The talk is of family, cultivating the human spirit, building our communities and maybe a bit of World Cup soccer. Through the fog of old assumptions comes clarity and even agreement on what we believe. Such as that there should be no compulsion in matters of faith, as the Quran prescribes.

When others take such verses out of their historical context, I am reminded that both the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Ku Klux Klan taught from the Bible. And Mohammed of Arabia wasn’t the first prophet contradicted by alleged followers of the principles he taught. Moses stepped away for a talk with God and his followers, despite all the miracles they had seen, began worshipping a golden calf.

Anyone seen all-American icon Muhammad Ali rioting over the pope’s comments? With his annual appearance at our Muslim Convention, which took place last month in Chicago, the increasingly frail former heavyweight champ makes clear that he’s standing with Imam W. Deen Mohammed, the son of his former teacher the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and sincere people of other faiths who are advancing these sentiments among Muslims and humanity.

This year, our scintillating banquet speaker, the Rev. Dr. Annie O. Oliver of Milwaukee, said well what applies to Muslims and anyone who claims a particular faith or philosophy: “If I was accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?”

C.B. Hanif is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post.

Copyright (c) 2006 Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.

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