In the aftermath of 9/11, Rabbi Michael Lerner, a learned Jewish cleric and editor of the progressive magazine Tikkun, warned us of the pitfalls of stereotyping. Noting that the perpetrators of the destruction were were Muslims, he correctly reminded us that not all Muslims were terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims.
This call to reason, however, has not completely eliminated Muslim bashing from the national scene. During the 2012 presidential campaign, presidential hopeful Herman Cain played the Muslim card by arousing suspicion and animosity toward the Islamic religion and its adherents.
A recent article in the Washington Post, however, provides a more realistic perspective of the Muslims in our midst. The majority of U.S. Muslims — a bit over 2 million in 2011 — are peaceable and law abiding, and were as appalled as the rest of us by the infamy or 9/11.
And contrary to a popular misconception, not all Muslims are “out to get us.” Like most Christians, they believe that taking up arms and going to war is necessary in some circumstances — such as defending ones homeland from foreign aggression or opposing the rule of dictators and tyrants.
As for the meaning of Jihad — an infamous word associated with the Islamic religion and often interpreted as a mandate to war against non-Muslims unless they convert to Islam — there are indeed some imams (the Muslim title for pastor) who advocate this belief, as well as do some extremist fringe groups such as the Taliban. But in a search of the web, I ran across a question-and-answer-site that dealt specifically with questions about the Islamic religion, and asked if the Koran — the Muslim Holy Book -- advocates violence against non-Muslims. The answer: a decided no, authenticated by direct quotes from the book itself.
Further light on this question is shed by Robert Ellwood of the University of Southern California: “Out of the community ideal of Islam comes the concept of Jihad, or holy war, which is designed to defend Islam and defend its social practice, though not to force individual conversion, which is forbidden."
And for a reality check: Muslims have and are persecuting Christians, and Christians have and are persecuting Muslims. But whatever our religious persuasion, we must always be on the side of truth, justice, and compassion, and neither Christian, Muslim, or other credos has a monopoly on these virtues.