This letter is an attempt to address the characterization of Islam raised by Pastor Harrelson (June 14) in a letter to the editor and again mentioned in a letter by T. A. Johnson (July 22). Pastor Harrelson has already put himself forward to block a mosque in our community.
Islam, or people who identify as Muslims, comprise over 2.2 billion of our earth’s 7.3 billion population, with Indonesia being the most populous Muslim country (88% of its 261 million people identify as Muslim).
Islam is a very complex and multifaceted religion. As a system of beliefs, Islam is more than the Quran (which actually translates as “recitation”). In addition to the Quran there are the Sunnah – the narratives on the life of Muhammad – which are a second source of Islamic teachings. Simplistic analyses of one or two Suras (chapters) will produce un-researched, unsupported conclusions.
To explain the Hadith and the Quran there are various historical, legal, and scholarly schools that have rendered analyses and conclusions concerning every Sura of the Quran. These schools of study and analysis offer interpretations of the meanings and importance of various texts. Al-Azhar University was established in Cairo, Egypt in 970 A.D. to concentrate on the study of the Quran and the Hadith, and remains a chief center of Islamic and Arabic learning to this day.
I doubt that Pastor Harrelson has immersed himself in such rigorous study of Islam. Nor does he seem to accept the idea that charlatans of any religion can or would hide themselves behind a holy book. The KKK passed itself off as a Christian organization. From our own history we know there is a difference between religion and charity and religion used to harm, discriminate, and support injustice.
We also know that some commentators have ulterior motives when they characterize the religion or habits of others. I’ve lived in a Muslim country and experienced zero fear, but only warmth, understanding, friendship and caring. Assigning or designating “otherness” to our fellow human beings – people of color, of different nationalities, of different ethnic groups, religious affiliation or even geography (e.g. Africa) is the basis of fear, hate, lack of empathy, and in the final analysis, an act of cowardice and weakness, not strength.
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.