P. Edronkin

The Faces Of Religion

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A few days ago I was doing some zapping with my TV set and had the opportunity to watch in two different channels at the same time two revealing interviews that portrayed very well the perceived images that Islam and Christianity enjoy or suffer at this moment. In one channel I was able to watch Pope Benedict XVI talking about the challenges that youths face today in our global society: in a contiguous channel, Mr. Nassrallah, the leader of Hezbollah and an alleged cleric and man of faith, was talking to Israeli Muslims and telling them to leave northern Israel on order not to be splattered with blood, as he and his terrorist fighters were launching Katyusha rockets at random from Lebanon.

And this got me immediately thinking: today, our planet is suffering many terrorist attacks that can be loosely classified as originated in an ideology that someone are beginning to identify as Islamo-Fascism; this is putting in parallel the definition, for the public opinion, and at the same level, of Islam and fascism, and indeed it is a sad definition. However, it is beginning to dig into the minds of common citizens as true because of the unending violence associated with religious fanaticism. We just have to see the more and more frequent cases of fear or mistrust, discrimination and suspicion against Muslims in all sorts of countries to comprehend the dimension of what is happening.

The Middle East has always been a violent region since the glory days of Assyria: history shows that violent events are taking place there for a lot of different reasons and for an extremely long time. However, it seems that Islam is being contaminated by that awful spirit and promoting a global expansion by violent means.

Another thing, which seems too common is that such suggestions are often rebuffed by Muslims with protests and crossed accusations. The rest of the world, however, act in a very different way and so, such actions hardly induce respect. We have to remember two events that describe both ways of acting: when a newspaper in Denmark published some cartoons deemed offensive by Muslims, violent protest took place, even people died, and fanatics threatened the lives of both cartoonists and editors - remember the author of 'The Satanic Verses,' by the way? -.

On the other hand, Pope John Paul II suffered a murder attempt by the hands of a Muslim some years before, and nobody among Christians threatened Muslims, burned flags of Arab countries or anything like that.No religion in the world has been created with the actual purpose of destroying others: no religion promotes intolerance and destruction yet, and I have to say that, in recent years I have only seen two instances in which Muslim clerics interviewed on TV were talking about something different than spilling blood, Jihads or some other violent deed or proposal. I don't think and I don't believe that Islam is and ideology of hatred but the fact is that such is the conclusion that the general public is getting around the world just by witnessing how people who are Muslim clerics or assuming the role of them talk about very nasty things.

This is alienating Islam from the rest of the world, and since alienation produces violence and even more violent reactions, there is a need for revision here: in all these years, it seems almost like a cliché to say that the alleged causes for the appearance of Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic terrorist cells have to do with the policies of Western countries or Israel. However, the kinds of actions that are described as the origins of such violence - such as tiny chunks of disputed lands across borders - exist in other cultures and nations, and don't seem to cause so much violence. It seems to me that without neglecting those arguments, there is also a fundamental failure within Muslim societies to address problems in ways quieter than open violence. That's also a cause.

And the way in which Islam presents itself has a lot to do too: most people don't like violence, and when an alleged Muslim cleric appears applauding the attacks on New York, Haifa or London, he may be boasting the feats of some alleged holy warriors, but he is doing an enormous damage to hundreds of millions of Muslims and non-Muslims, for he is painting that hole culture in blood. I think that the world and Islam itself deserve a better image and in the future, so it is the responsibility of the leaders of Muslim nations and communities to convince the world that those are not the true representatives of their culture, and to do so in a convincing way.

In other words, people around the world need to see Islamic leaders rejecting violence in a believable way and without excuses or justifications of any kind: taht would be to lead by example, and could contribute enormously to the well-being of us all, Muslims, Jewish, Christians and so on. Otherwise, both words - violence and Islam - will remain inextricably and unfortunately joined forever.

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