“I worship not that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your way, and to me mine.”
Now contrast that text with this declaration: “Kill Them All—Every Last One!”
The former words of patience and wisdom come from the Koran, the central religious text of the Islamic religion. The latter were shared in a social media post by an official from Michigan named Jeff Sieting. And to really bring his point home, he added a few extra “niceties,” likening Islam to “flesh-eating bacteria” and suggesting “nukes” be used on the ten largest Muslim cities worldwide.
I understand that the population at large is scared about terrorism: it’s real. And that’s the whole point: it’s put there to instill terror. Yes, it’s true that a few individuals have been manipulated into killing machines; scars are worn by many to prove it.
But the vast majority of this planet’s Muslims are NOT terrorists. In fact, the true, original meaning of “jihad” is: the act of striving, applying oneself, struggling, persevering. It refers to the religious duty Muslims have to sustain their religion. But isn’t that basically what any religion does? That’s why Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Scientology—to name a few—are still alive and kicking in the world today. Perseverance is a positive trait, not a destructive one.
So, after reading Mr. Seiting’s hate-inspired outburst, I decided to gather a few precise facts about the world’s Muslims.
According to the Pew Research Center, this very old religion currently has an estimated 1.5 billion followers, which is about 24 percent of the global population. And, according to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, less than 0.0002 percent of Americans killed since 9/11 have died at the hands of Muslims.
And in the professional arena, per the American Medical Association, 10 percent of all American physicians are Muslims.
Then there’s Steve Jobs. His biological father was a Syrian Muslim immigrant living in Wisconsin! And YouTube cofounder Jawed Karim was born to a Muslim Bangladeshi.
And, if you ever visit the monumental Willis Tower in Chicago, as you look out over that beautiful city from one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, you will undoubtedly appreciate the work of architectural and engineering giant Dr. Fazlur Rahman Khan, a Muslim. He was the mind behind this masterpiece. In fact, he is so highly respected in his field that one of the streets of the Windy City was named after him in 1998.
When one has traveled and mingled with the peoples of Earth, one quickly realizes that just about anyone—no matter his or her faith, color or creed—has the same aspirations, the same admiration of beauty, the same quest for happiness.
While I could write reams more on how Muslims have contributed to the world, my purpose is not to preach. I merely intend to put matters in perspective. Just as no Catholic expects to be likened to Torquemada, not every Roman is a “Pontius Pilate”—and how many residents of Tennessee do you know who are members of the Ku Klux Klan?!—well the same goes for 99.9 percent of the world’s Muslim population.
A friend of mine lost her beautiful 21-year-old daughter in the November 2015 Paris attacks. Despite her intense grief, not once has she generalized or likened all Muslims to the murderers of her child. She has even encouraged others to recognize the facts for what they are—that most Muslims are peaceful people like you and me.
I personally have known hard-working, family-oriented, loving members of Islam and I’m sure most people can say the same. One of my good friends is a Muslim musician who can captivate an audience for two hours with his guembri-playing and make you feel welcome in his home for many more.
When one has traveled and mingled with the peoples of Earth, one quickly realizes that just about anyone—no matter his or her faith, color or creed—has the same aspirations, the same admiration of beauty, the same quest for happiness. I personally don’t care what book of worship an individual has on his or her shelf at home. If we laugh and cry over the same things and share the same goals, what more is there to look for?
We’re all on the same page.
Photo of guembri player by khairur rijal pauzi/Shutterstock.com