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article imageLouisiana Muslims say their faith not violent Special

By Carol Forsloff     May 7, 2010 in World
A Muslim man plants a bomb in an effort to kill innocents in New York City, a violent act people like Bill Maher use to condemn all Islam. But how do Muslims feel when the worst of their faith is accentuated?
Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan, was arrested on May 3 for "allegedly driving a car bomb into Times Square."
Bill Maher's opinion on all this was sought on the Larry King Show recently.
Maher is a comedian and a frequent guest on Larry King. He is often asked his opinion on everything going on in the news when he's with King as a guest. In a recent show he took pot shots at Islam, calling it a religion that teaches and practices violence.
Maher tells his audience frequently he is not a man of faith and ridicules it frequently. It matters not the belief in fact, Maher condemns and ridicules them all, including belief in God. He uses what some consider comedic barbs to address issues as well.
In his particular style he is criticized as just as dogmatic and fundamentalist as those he criticizes in an article in a Presbyterian publication.
How do ordinary Muslims as American citizens feel both about the types of people who commit violence in the name of their religion, those who focus on their faith in negative ways and what is written or said about it?
Sawat Khan is a Muslim woman from Pakistan who has lived in the United States for eight years. She came to the U.S. following an arranged marriage to a fellow Pakistani who has been a citizen for decades and served more than 20 years in the U.S. military. Like her husband Khalid Khan, she abhors violence in all its forms and worries that the aberrant people in her religion make trouble not only for their targeted victims but for people of their own culture and religion.
Mrs. Khan says, "These people are not religious people. They can't be thought of that way. Anyone who condemns the religion as teaching violence, takes things out of context, just like people do for other things. The man who planted a bomb in New York City may have called himself a Muslim, but there are Christians and Jews and people of other religions who do terrible things in the name of their religion. The young man who killed his girlfriend recently or the person who takes a gun into a business may be a member of a church some place, but the news media doesn't talk of their religion. We never know about that. But when one of us does, then we are all talked about that way, it seems."
"Do you find you have to defend yourself a lot from citicism?" she was asked.
"Sometimes," Mrs. Khan said. "But mostly I get along with people and like them. I have a young daughter, and I am raising her to recognize the most important thing in life is her humanity. That means she must obey God and love people."
"An arranged marriage? Does that mean women are just given away and have no authority or rights themselves?"
Mrs. Khan responded with gentleness, but firmness as well, "Oh my no. My marriage was arranged, but I was shown his (Khalid's) picture, and he was described to me. I had a choice. As for me, I am free to be me and to be a person myself. The Prophet respected women. Our arranged marriages often help keep us from having family conflicts"
"Like in-law problems?"
Mrs. Khan laughed, "Yes, that's right." She explained when marriages are arranged, the families can't say, "I never liked that person."
Khurshid Khan, Sawat's husband, is a teacher of the Islamic faith and spokesperson for the Shreveport Islamic community. He affirms his wife's statements about Islam, but most especially his concern that the press dwells on the negative aspects of his religion.
"There have to be people who tell the facts, the details of a specific case, such as the man in New York City who made the bomb and tried to kill people recently. But there also have to be people who will go further and tell the public how the ordinary American Muslim feels. We are like people of any religion. There are good and bad in every group. We have our bad people, and many of them, like those in American slums, have a sense of anger and frustration about how they must live. Or they have personal problems they can't deal with, then get frustrated and do terrible things."
"What about comedians who make jokes about religion and talk about Islam as violent?" Khurshid Khan and his wife had no knowledge of the recent Larry King show where Bill Maher was a recent guest and made negative comments about Islam.
"I can tell you those who do violence against Christians and Jews disobey the teachings of our faith." Khan went on to cite passages from the Qu'ran as evidence, underlining the principles of love of fellow man taught in its pages. He also said as he often does, "The Muslim must love Jesus, he must love the Ten Commandments and obey them. He must be fair in his dealings and treat people with respect. This goes for either man or woman in Islam"
Muslims defend their faith in instances like this, but where is the evidence above and beyond their words?
One might turn to a little-known but important selection from Muqtedar Khan, Director of Islamic Studies, at the University of Delaware pointed out in a Washington Post article years ago an important source both people of the West and Islam must know, the author said with this selection from that article which is left for the reader to access and decide.
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