Stop violence in the name of Islam
Ameena Hussein writes of two types of Islam that can no longer be ignored
There was a time when I believed that Islam was a religion of love, forgiveness, peace and justice. I was a child then and I have only my parents to blame for conjuring a religion that encompassed tolerance, mercy and humanity. I was deluded by my daily utterances that began with Bismillah i rahman i rahim (in the name of God the most merciful, the most beneficient), that I practised a religion of compassion and truth.

Today I live in another age, another time where I have to confront another religion. That religion too is called Islam but it is portrayed as a religion of violence, of savagery and of inhuman cruelty. Until now, the two religions, my Islam and theirs lay side by side with each other. I ignored them and they ignored me. I saw how their Islam could be manipulated and distorted by them and others, who profited by their existence. But it did not concern me, I told myself. They have a right to practise in their own way as much as I have a right to practise in mine.

I must be truthful. It was not September 11 that woke me up. It was Daniel Pearl. Yes, an American. Yes, a Jew. Ironically on the eve of the Haj festival I learnt that Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal journalist had been murdered. His throat had been slit. To me, it seemed like the undue Haj sacrifice; only even more distorted. I wondered if the kidnappers were sending a message to the world. They most certainly had a message for me. We are, they say-to me, practitioners of a religion of hate. I wonder if their Islam has become a religion of despair. And I wonder what is happening to my Islam.

All over the world the majority of Muslims are silent as a minority of despotic, cruel, inhumane human beings kill, maim, violate and dishonour in the name of Islam. They have taken my religion, used it, exploited it, twisted it unrecognizably to destroy the very essence of Islam. They have created a parallel Islam. And I have remained silent. What has become of the great world religion that produced art, architecture and literature? Where is the example of a rich life of ethics, charity and spirituality? Centuries ago, we were the models for tolerance, reason and civilization. Today we have to ask ourselves what did we do wrong? We cringe when we hear the word Muslim extremist on the television, we flinch at the mention of Muslim terrorist, we apologize weakly for Muslim fundamentalism but we do not respond towards the hijacking of our religion.

We tolerated those who have all taken the religion of Islam in their own perverse way and exploited it for their unholy gain but we do not protest.

We are quiet in the face of irrational suppression of Muslim women and girl children by so called fundamentalists who only have to wave a leaf of the Quran to shut us up and we do not ask for justification. Much of this rage is defended among themselves. We are the better Muslims, they say. We are purifying the religion they say. We are doing it for the Palestinians, they say. But all this hate, this violence, this abhorrence will not help Palestine. We must be honest. Palestine may be the excuse now but we didn't care ten years ago. For too long we have blamed everyone else for misunderstanding Islam.

We have accused the Jews, the media, Hollywood and the West for distorting and misrepresenting our religion and ourselves. I am beginning to think that we have only ourselves to blame. We prepared the ground, we dug the grave, we handed them the gun. Can we blame them if they shoot? We have to take collective responsibility for the state of our religion. It is we who have the greatest duty to stop violence committed in the name of Islam.

The change starts with us. If every Muslim were to say for every instance of injustice, terror, and death that has been perpetrated in the name of Islam, no! we will tolerate no more! We will make a difference. If every Muslim were to practise their religion with the love and peace that I was taught the religion possessed, there will be a difference. If every Muslim was really a Muslim, the world would be different.
Ameena Hussein is a Sri Lankan writer who currently lives in Geneva

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