Islam: a home of tolerance, not fanaticism


Islam: a home of tolerance, not fanaticism



By YUSUF ISLAM (formerly CAT STEVENS)



Thursday 20 September 2001



http://www.theage.com.au/news/state/2001/09/20/FFX0L9N0SRC.html



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 Koran was that the

name of the faith comes from the word salam - peace. Far from the kind 

of

Turko-Arab-centric message I expected, the Koran 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

God-conscious".



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 Koran specifically declares: "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."



The Koran that our young people learn is full of stories and lessons 

from

the history of humanity as a whole. The Gospels and the Torah are 

referred

to; Jesus and Abraham are mentioned. In fact there is more mention in 

the

Koran of the prophet 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.



"There is no compulsion in religion," it states, meaning that people

should not be compelled to change their faith. Elsewhere it states, "To

you, your religion; to me mine."



Respect for religious values and justice is at the Koran's core. The

Koranic 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 Koran 

-

which demands that those recognised as being in charge of Muslims must

consult together regarding society's affairs. There is a whole chapter 

in

the Koran entitled Consultation.



Communal wellbeing is central to human life, so there is a concept in

Islam called Istihsan, which means "to look for the common good". Even

though the Koran 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 thief.



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 

this

tragic act 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 (peace be upon him) 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 recognise the Last Prophet's own

definition of that which makes a person representative, or otherwise, 

of

the faith he lived and the one we try to teach.



- GUARDIAN





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