Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Islam: Religion of Peace ?

Following the recent horrendous Paris and Beirut attacks, with in mind previous similar horrific ones, ridicule, laughter, irony are the responses of many people across the world when coming across the question of whether Islam is a religion of peace. On the other hand, many more insist that Islam IS a religion of peace. Who is right ?

The heart of the matter is not to seek an accurate answer to this question, but it is to seek the reason behind this question. Amid such attacks, why do many people usually question the appropriateness of this religion ? Is it because they believe that it is the driving force of all the bad in the world ? Perhaps. The responses of many may indeed be offensive whilst those of others deal with defending it. Again, who is right ? The continuous debate eventually results in hatred and violence.

I cannot emphasise enough the lack of rationality that this question entails. How absurd! Let’s start from the beginning. What is the meaning of the term ‘religion’ ? I am no expert, but we usually hear of people seeking spiritual comfort when confronted with an unpleasant experience. Ironically, many do that even whilst not practising any religion. But why? What does that mean? Regardless of the practices that each religion requires its believers to follow, we should bear in mind that all religions have some common core meanings: ‘religion’ stands for ‘love’, ‘religion’ stands for ‘good values’, ‘religion’ stands for ‘mental peace’, ‘religion’ stands for becoming the best you can, ‘religion’ stands for HUMANITY. Yes, humanity is an, if not the, essential part, of any religion. You may be an atheist- if you are good at practising humanity, then you automatically gain credits in every religion. Please keep reading.

Viewing a CNN interview with Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American writer, I hear the best answer:

“Islam does not promote violence nor peace. Islam is just a religion and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you’re violent, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is going to be violent…People are violent or peaceful and that depends on their politics, their social world, the way that they see their communities, the way they see themselves…These kind of over-simplifications, I think, only cause more danger. There is a very real problem. ISIS is a problem, Al-Qaeda is a problem, these militant Islamic groups like Hamas, like Hezbollah, like the Taliban, have to be dealt with. But it doesn’t actually help us deal with them when instead of talking about rational conflicts, rational criticism of a particular religion, we instead so easily slip into a bigger treat by simply painting everyone with a single brush,”

“By simply painting everyone with a single brush.” What a statement! It is so simple yet so powerful. As a Muslim, the minute I heard about the Beirut and Paris attacks, frustration, anger, sadness, disgust are what my heart profoundly felt. My heart aches for all those mourning the loss of their loved ones, for the fact that the image of my religion is being ruined by those creatures, for all those women wearing the headscarf that will face Islamophobia, for all those who will face discrimination for simply being a Muslim, for the world losing its ‘humane’ sense. Considering that ignorance is part of human nature, life naturally requires us to educate ourselves, and this is done in many ways, whether it is through school, the so-called ‘life lessons’ or others. However, it becomes vividly clear that educating yourself is something that must first come from within, upon hearing of people joining those extremist groups, educating yourself is something that the person must be willing to do when we hear of people equalling Islam with terrorism, educating yourself may seem such a complicated task when suggesting that ham sandwiches be offered to refugees when knowing very well that they do not eat pork. It is not a matter of religion, it is a matter of humanity, of respect.

Whatever you are, religious or atheist, please do not judge. Do not generalise. Do not paint everyone with a single brush. Intransigence from any side only leads to brutality, leads to humanity fading. Humanity is the driving force of peace. Be humane.

Do you now understand my blatant disregard for this question ?