||There is an ongoing slander campaign against Islam, claiming that it is a religion that promotes violence and hinting that it seeks world conquest.
Before you buy the malarkey that is being produced by people with their own agendas or prejudices or who are just plain ignoramuses, follow these few suggestions:
Compare the history of Islam with the history of Europe, which for centuries was called Christendom. An objective look will show you that Christendom wins by a landslide when it comes to violence and wars. After all, Europe and its offspring did not come to dominate the world, including the Islamic countries, because they practiced the gentle virtues of Jesus.
As for the common practice of cherry-picking Scripture from holy writings and presenting it out of context, just check out what Christians call the Old Testament. There you will find God advocating a double standard of morality, condoning slavery, ordering the Israelites to commit genocide and committing infanticide himself on a mass scale. I don't believe you will find anything comparable in the Quran.
The word "jihad," which is so over-used these days, has, like a lot of words, more than one meaning. It means basically to struggle, but this can be personal or spiritual, or a peaceful political struggle. Only if Islam is attacked are Muslims required to defend it. As for that obnoxious propaganda term "Islamo-fascist," just recall that fascism is a European invention by nominal Christians. To my knowledge, the only fascist governments ever to exist on this planet were all European and nominally Christian.
Another canard is that Islam promotes forced conversion. Not so. Even when the Arab empire was expanding, rarely were any of the conquered people forced to convert. The Quran even forbids it, as I recall. Naturally, once Muslims were in charge, a lot of people decided it was in their own self-interest to convert, but this is just one of the sleazy aspects of human nature.
I remember when Florida elected its first Republican governor of the 20th century. I saw plenty of people crawl out from under their rocks and convert to the Republican Party, drawn by the smell of patronage. With some rare exceptions, human beings always act in what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be in their self-interest.
It was Christian Europe that slaughtered the Jews, and nothing remotely resembling the Holocaust is to be found in the history of Islam. In fact, during the past, when Jews were being persecuted by Christian Europe, they frequently fled to and found sanctuary in the Muslim countries. Until Israel was established, practically every Muslim country had sizable Jewish populations dating back centuries. And there are still Jews and Christians in some Muslim countries.
A final suggestion is that when you hear some individual radical Muslim being quoted, just remember he is one of a billion people and speaks only for himself and his small following. And be wary of the quotations he uses, for they are often deliberately fabricated or distorted.
If Muslims really desired to conquer the world, don't you think it's strange that we've been living in peace with them for nearly a millennium and a half, except for those times when we attacked them (the Crusades, the European colonial movement and our invasion of Iraq)? Don't forget either that some of the countries the Bush administration calls allies are themselves Muslim â€“ Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc.
You have nothing to fear from Islam. The al-Qaida movement is a tiny percentage of Muslims and wouldn't be the force it is except for the fact that the Bush administration has gone out of its way to make all of Osama bin Laden's propaganda become true.
Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2007 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.