I watch with shame some Arab "Hodjas" praying for the destruction of Jews and other Arab leaders saying how well the Germans did when referring to the massacres of the Holocaust. A disturbingly high proportion of this horrific anti-Jewish propaganda is aimed at small children, with the obvious goal of indoctrination. I feel it is my duty to protest loudly that this is NOT Islam: These people are misusing the Koran for their corrupt convictions and they claim to do so in the name of Islam either, out of ignorance or hypocrisy. These broadcasts are disseminated worldwide; they do not exist in some vacuum. It goes without saying that when others in the Western world, or Israel itself, get wind of these broadcasts, the inevitable result is Islamophobia.
Islamophobia is defined as the irrational fear and intolerance of Muslims. But is it really irrational and baseless? Most Muslims are critical about the suspicions, concerns and sometimes prejudiced attitudes displayed toward them because of their religious identity, but for how much of this are the Muslims responsible? And do we, as Muslims, genuinely take into consideration the justified reasons behind this fear and take steps to eliminate them?
The concerns in Israel and the Western world are primarily based on these kinds of people; people who want to "convert" non-Muslims compulsively or coerce them into living in a specific way in societies where there is a majority Muslim population, or persecute non-Muslims, or use terrorism or violence to reach their goals. The aforementioned are crimes that Islam clearly opposes, and those who resort to these cruel methods are also proving that they are not true Muslims. Then who are they? I call them 'bigots'
Today bigotry, backwardness, radicalism, fanaticism or extremism – whatever you want to call it - is the biggest problem confronting the Muslim world. It is a huge threat, spreading like a virus, ruining otherwise good people, stripping them of their humanity and turning them into loveless, violent, rigid extremists. That is why so many in the world have an openly hostile, or at least deeply ambivalent, attitude towards Islam and Muslims.
Bigotry, which is one of the greatest barriers to beauty, love, friendship and happiness, is an all too prevalent common mentality. Every religion, every thought, every ideology has its bigots and fanatics; however the Muslim world has been wrestling with the dangers of bigotry and radicalism for far too long and on far too wide a scale. Were this simply an internal issue, confined to a single tariqah (school of thought) or an isolated geographic location, the issue could be resolved easily enough. What we have seen, however, is a virulent strain of fanaticism that has been unleashed across the Islamic world and has spread with the rapidity of a pandemic. Fanatics who claim to be Muslims have introduced their pseudo-religion made up of their own rules as Islam; in truth, this false religion has no relation to Islam whatsoever.
They both might carry identity cards that states "Islam" on them, but the bigots have very distinctive qualities which separate them from true Muslims. As I tell my non-Muslim friends, "Do not try to understand Islam by looking at the bigots; instead learn Islam from those true Muslims who live by Islam in compliance with the spirit of the Koran."
To highlight but a few of the differences;
While a true Muslim is joyful, open and full of life, a bigot is sulky, with no expression of love in his/her eyes.
While a true Muslim likes everything that is beautiful, appreciates a woman’s value and loves all living beings, a bigot hates women, and is against aesthetics or beauty in general.
While a true Muslim likes the arts and has a very strong sense of aesthetics, a bigot not only disdains the arts and aesthetics, but actively opposes them.
While a true Muslim attaches great importance to science and contributes to scientific progress, a bigot is against science.
Perhaps what is most important for everyone to know is that a true Muslim is loving, compassionate and sincerely desires peace, love and friendship to be the prevailing moral values. On the other hand, a bigot is aggressive, full of hatred and rage, and they see violence, the use of brute force, war and conflict as sacred concepts.
As known to the Western world, bigots are hostile towards Christians and Jews and do not tolerate different schools of thoughts. Their rigid fanaticism alienates them from the universal precepts shared by all mankind.
Moreover, while a Muslim uses his wisdom and thinks deeply, a bigot does not reason, but rather acts in compliance with the dogmas he has learned by heart, and offers a completely different perspective on religion. These dogmas, on close examination, are frequently found to be riddled with superstitions and inventions that are in complete contradiction with the true faith.
Because of this bigoted mindset, Islamophobia has taken hold throughout the world. A human model that does not enjoy art, kindness or beauty, that has a harsh and narrow mindset, is of course not only a threat to the West, but to Muslims as well. For me, being a Muslim means being of the highest level of modernity; being the most knowledgeable, most joyful, most outward-looking and loving person in the world; someone who beautifies his surroundings, delights in beauty and is full of an internal fervor.
Of course, the world would never accept such a system that bans happiness, belittles women, and disregards quality and beauty. So what do these people offer? Nothing; no music, no art, no sculpture, no quality people, no quality of life, no compliments, no nice words, no laughter, no positive atmosphere, no beautiful architecture, no democracy, no freedom of thought, no happy people - we can continue to count these “no”s almost infinitely.
What is more, they bring compulsion, coercion, suppression, violence and bloodshed. So as Muslims, we need to make it very clear to the world - particularly to Jews and Christians - that we are their friends; that true Muslims do not shed blood. We should make people forget about crazed fanatics wielding swords and axes when they hear the word Muslim. For that reason, one of the goals of true
Muslims should be to show people how enlightened and peaceful Muslims are when Islam is embraced in its pure form and lived with its true spirit, removed from superstitions and innovations.
The world needs to not just hear but also witness how values such as love, affection, compassion, respect, profound thought and sincerity lie at the heart of Islam. If Muslims make this clear to the world, the world will feel less threatened by Muslims and hopefully change its policies.
The author is a political and religious commentator from Turkey, and an executive producer at a Turkish TV. She is also the spokesperson of a prominent international interfaith organization. She can be reached on Facebook and Twitter