Islam: a home of tolerance, not fanaticism

Islam: a home of tolerance, not fanaticism

By Yusuf Islam

Media speculation since the horrific terrorist attacks on America has
pointed the finger at Muslims and the Arab world, and that has meant
ordinary citizens of the US and other Western countries becoming easy prey
for anti-faith hooligans. Shame.

Sadly, the latest horror to hit the US looks to have been caused by people
of Middle Eastern origin, bearing Muslim names. Again, shame.

This fuels more hatred for a religion and a people who have nothing to do
with these events. This is why I want to explain some basic facts about this
noble way we call Islam, before, God forbid, another disaster occurs -- next
time probably aimed at Muslims.

I came to Islam in my late 20s, during my searching period as a wandering
pop star. I found a religion that blended scientific reason with spiritual
reality, in a unifying faith far removed from the headlines of violence,
destruction and terrorism.

One of the first interesting things I learned in the Quran was that the name
of the faith comes from the word Salaam -- peace. Far from the kind of
Turko-Arab-centric message I expected, the Quran presented a belief in the
universal existence of God, one God for all. It does not discriminate
against peoples; it says we may be different colors and from different
tribes, but we are all human and "the best of people are the most

Today, as a Muslim, I have been shattered by the horror of recent events;
the display of death and indiscriminate killing we've all witnessed has
dented humanity's confidence in itself. Terror on this scale affects
everybody on this small planet, and no one is free from the fallout. Yet, we
should remember that such violence is almost an everyday occurrence in some
Muslim lands: it should not be exacerbated by revenge attacks on more
innocent families and communities.

Along with most Muslims, I feel it a duty to make clear that such
orchestrated acts of incomprehensible carnage have nothing to do with the
beliefs of most Muslims. The Quran specifically declares (what means): "If
anyone murders an (innocent) person, it will be as if he has murdered the
whole of humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has
saved the whole of humanity." [Quran 5:32]

The Quran that our young people learn is full of stories and lessons from
the history of humanity as a whole. The Injeel (Gospels) and the Torah are
referred to; 'Eesaa (Jesus) and Ibraaheem (Abraham), may Allaah exalt their
mention, are mentioned. In fact there is more mention in the Quran of the
prophet Moosaa (Moses) than of any other. It acknowledges the coexistence
of other faiths, and in doing so, acknowledges that other cultures can live
together in peace.

It states (what means): "There is no compulsion in religion" [Quran 2:256]
meaning that people should not be compelled to change their faith. Elsewhere
it states (what means): "To you, your religion; to me mine." [Quran 109:6]

Respect for religious values and justice is at the Quran's core. The Quranic
history we teach our young provides ample examples of inter-religious and
international relationships of how to live together.

But some extremists take elements of the sacred scriptures out of context.
They act as individuals, and when they can't come together as part of a
political structure or consultative process, you find these dissident
factions creating their own rules, contrary to the spirit of the Quran --
which demands that those recognized as being in charge of Muslims must
consult together regarding society's affairs. There is a whole chapter in
the Quran entitled ?Consultation?.

Communal wellbeing is central to human life, so there is a concept in Islam
called Istihsaan, which means "to look for the common good". Even though the
Quran may lay down a diktat, scholars are also supposed to consider the
circumstances prevalent at the time. Sometimes that means choosing the
lesser of two evils or even suspending legislation if necessary: for
instance, a person who steals bread during a famine is not treated as a

Once I wrote in a song: "Where do the children play?" Our sympathy and
thoughts go out to the families of all those who lost their lives in these
tragic acts of violence, as well as all those injured. But life must go on.
Children still need to play and people need to live and learn more about
their neighbors, so that ignorance doesn't breed more blind fanaticism.
Moderation is part of faith, so those who accuse Muslim schools of fostering
fanaticism should learn a bit more about Islam.

The Prophet, sallallaahu ?alayhi wa sallam, said: "Ruined are those who
insist on hardship in faith" and "A believer remains within the scope of his
religion as long as he doesn't kill another person illegally." Such
knowledge and words of guidance are desperately needed at this time, to
separate fact from falsehood, and to recognize the Last Prophet's,
sallallaahu ?alayhi wa sallam, own definition of that which makes a person
representative or otherwise, of the faith he lived and the one we try to