Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Everybody with your fists raised high, Let me hear your battle cry tonight.

Heeey guys!
This is another essay that I wrote! I hope you enjoy. I would love to hear from you guys in comments, or emails! Check out my Contact Info page if you wanna reach me directly!

Emma Catherine Morrison
RE 101 – Tutorial 4
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Misconceptions of Jihad: The Effects of 9/11 on the West’s views of Islam

Stephen Prothero says in his book God is not One, “when Americans are asked for one word that sums up Islam, ‘fanatical’, ‘radical’, ‘strict’, ‘violent’, and ‘terrorism’,” are the first words that come to mind (26). Prothero explains the modern West’s views of Islam perfectly. However, these ideas that he describes are not new to the 21st century. Islam has been the target of discrimination at the hands of the West since the Middle Ages. Hundreds of years have passed since the horrors of the Crusades, and yet somehow, nothing has changed. Muslims are still the villains in the eyes of the mostly Christian West.
The way the West views Islam of has been negatively affected by the actions of the extremists of Islam, which has resulted in discrimination and mistreatment of Muslims. The event that set the most recent anti-Muslim ideas in motion is the Terrorist Attacks on September 11th, 2001. The horrific events of that day are burned into the memories of this generation, Muslims and Westerners alike.
The actions of the extremist Muslim group Al-Qaeda on 9/11 were justified by Al-Qaeda through the Islamic idea of jihad or “holy war”, as the West has come to understand it. These terrorist attacks began what American President George W. Bush called “the war on terror”, that left everyday Muslims suffering the repercussions of extremist actions. This led to chronic discrimination all across North America, and left the West in an extremely Islamophobic state. Islam was feared and hated.
As quoted above, the West views Islam as a violent and fanatical belief system, which is in fact, untrue and Muslims have been fighting to prove these stereotypes wrong since the events of 9/11.
On September 11th, 2001, two commercial airplanes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Centre in New York City. The death toll rose into the thousands and the effects of this tragedy were catastrophic. The United States went into a state of panic. The party that claimed responsibility for these attacks was an extremist Muslim group called Al-Qaeda.
To better understand the motivations of Al-Qaeda, the concept of extremism must be understood. Webster’s Dictionary defines extremism as “advocacy of extreme measures or views” (merriam-webster.com). What does this mean in regards to Islam? The Islamic idea of jihad is an idea that has been taken by extremists and changed into something that it was not meant to be, leading some Muslims to “advocate extreme measures” to carry out what they believe is the will of God, such as the attacks of 9/11.
“Jihad literally means ‘struggle’,” says Prothero on page 34. He goes on to explain that jihad is said to have two meanings, the first being a spiritual struggle against “pride and self-sufficiency”, and the “physical struggle” against the “enemies of Islam” (34).  Dr. Atkinson quoted page 81 of Reza Aslan’s book, No god but God in lecture, saying that the primary focus of jihad is on the spiritual struggle, rather than the militant struggle, which is contrary to the beliefs of extremist Al-Qaeda, who place more importance on the militant struggle. John Kelsay quotes a document written by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other extremist Islamic leaders in February of 1996, in his 2002 article:
“We—with Allah's help—call on every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it. We also call on Muslim ulema, leaders, youths and soldiers to launch the raid on Satan's U.S. troops and the devil's supporters allying with them, and to displace those who are behind them so that they may learn a lesson.” (Kelsay, 29)

Al-Qaeda believes the United States to be one of the “enemies of Islam” that Prothero describes. This is an excellent example of the extremism within Islam, especially portrayed by Al-Qaeda, and public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden. This image of Islam is what is presented to Westerners; the image that has led to the marginalization of the Islamic community. This image of violent, radical and dangerous, terrorist Muslims has tainted the name of Islam, which in fact means peace (Prothero, 27).
            Since the 9/11 attacks, the West has had continued negative views of Islam. Security at airports was heightened. People were being detained and questioned purely because they looked Muslim. Islamophobia swept across North America like wildfire.
Prothero states on page 36, “For all the emphasis on jihad among Islamic extremists… you would think that it is one of Islam’s central concepts. It is not.” This militant fervour that Westerners associate with all Muslims is in fact not a majority, but a minority. Also, extremist Islamic groups such as Al-Qaeda not only hold contempt for Americans, but also for Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia (Aikman, 58), which further distances the extremist minority from the majority.
 Westerners have also come to believe that Islam believes that all non-believers should be killed, and that this belief is what leads to suicide bombers and events like 9/11. However, as Prothero points out on page 35, the Qu’ran “promises hell” for those who commit suicide, which clearly rules out suicide bombing and the actions of the 9/11 hijackers as acceptable actions within the norms of Islam. The Qu’ran also “condemns mass murder” (35), much the same as the Christian Bible condemns murder, once again furthering the views of the extremists and their “advocacy of extreme measures and views” from true Islam. This is one of the most prominent misconceptions that Westerners have about Islam, and is very clearly disproven when one takes a closer look at the Qu’ran.
John Kelsay quotes the Qu’ran in another article: “Fight against those who fight against you, but do not violate the limits! God does not approve those who violate the limits,” (706). This clearly contradicts the negative, stereotypical public view of Islam. The type of fighting that this quotation is describing is that of defensive warfare, not offensive, attacking warfare, like the attacks of 9/11 proved to be.
How has the Islamic community responded to 9/11 and the negative views of the West? Prothero explains that as in every religious tradition, adherents have always tried to explain and rationalize the “elements in their tradition that have been used to justify evil” by extremists and deviants (35). This is the biggest way that Muslims have battled against stereotypes and negative assumptions.
 He then goes on to explain how most Christians tend to disregard passages in the New Testament that have possible anti-Semitic connotations because they blame the Jews for the death of Christ. Their goal is to remove these negative connotations in order to prevent their use in the justification of violence against Jews, as they have been used in the past. This is an interesting comparison. Anti-Semitism was the hate crime that dominated the 20th century, and eventually manifested itself in the Holocaust, an event that defined a generation. Similarly, 9/11 has also defined a generation, with Islamophobia being the result of the tragedy.
Another interesting aspect of this comparison is the fact that sacred texts from Christianity and Islam have been used to justify violence, and discrimination. An excellent recent example of scripture being taken out of context and being used to discriminate is in the case of the Westboro Baptist Church in the United States, and their crusade against homosexuality; some of their picket signs reading “God hates fags”. This act of hate is contradictory to the command of Jesus to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31, NIV), similarly to the way that the act of suicide bombing is in direct conflict with the Qu’ran, as explained above.
Once again, the idea of jihad comes into play. “Apologists for Islam have tried to minimize the importance of jihad” and that of the two meanings of jihad, “the spiritual struggle is higher” (35), which echoes Reza Aslan’s argument quoted in lecture. It is clear that the West is very wrong about the idea of jihad.
The events of 9/11 perpetrated by the extremist Muslim group Al-Qaeda have resulted in widespread Islamophobia and discrimination towards Muslims in the West. Al-Qaeda justifies their actions with the idea of jihad or “holy war”, as it has been incorrectly interpreted, believing that by killing countless innocent civilians, they are carrying out the will and purpose of Allah [God]. Since 2001, Muslims have been fighting against the influence of extremists on the views of Westerners, and for their dignity as one of the world’s great religions. The struggle between Islam and Christianity that began hundreds of years ago has somehow managed to carry through into modernity. This should not be an “Us” versus “Them” issue; it should be a “We” issue, meaning that “We” should fight for a solution. “We” should stop looking for differences between “Us” and “Them”, and instead focus on the similarities.

Works Cited
Aikman, David. "Garlic, Dracula, and Al Qaeda: Civilization Itself Is the Target of Extremist Muslims." ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. EBSCO, 2006. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.
Aslan, Reza. No God but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006. 81. Print.
Kelsay, John. "Bin Laden's Reasons: Interpreting Islamic Tradition." ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. EBSCO, 2002. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.
Kelsay, John. "Democratic Virtue, Comparative Ethics, and Contemporary Islam." ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. EBSCO, 2005. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.

Matthew. BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages. Biblica, 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2011. <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark%2012:31&version=NIV>.
Prothero, Stephen R. "Islam: The Way of Submission." God Is Not One: the Eight Rival Religions That Run the World-- and Why Their Differences Matter. New York: HarperOne, 2010. 25-53. Print.


Love Always,
Emma Cate

1 comment:

  1. You really should not post this with your TA and prof's names attached. Random google searches by their academic peers can be affected by this.