By Yasmeen Qadri, Opinion-Editorial, The Orlando Sentinel, September 26, 2006
I am deeply saddened by the controversy about Islam and the day-to-day increase of stereotyping about Muslims. Some comment that Islam is not an 'example of a developed religion or a developing society' while others refer to the situation as 'clashes of civilizations.'
I began my career as a teacher two decades ago, and the first lesson taught to me was to keep religion -- not mine, but all religions -- out of the classroom. I grew up with faith being considered as the nourishment for all children, and the schools were responsible to strengthen it. I grew up in a Muslim home but attended a Catholic school and had Jewish, Sikh and Hindu friends, and the value that was deeply embedded in me was to show respect for all faiths.
Columnist Cal Thomas, like many other Westerners, writes that some Muslims refer to Jews as apes; aren't we all referred to as apes in the Western ideology of evolution? Misinterpretations and pieces of disconnected information from the Quran have become the modern art of the West. As a child, I was taught that a Muslim's faith is incomplete without showing reverence to Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and that Jews, Christians and Muslims are all children of Abraham and cousins to each other. While I began to enter the teenage years and went to college, I read about Mary in the Quran and took her as my role model -- yes, the same Mary of the Bible. Yet today I witness a new version of Islam in the West, one taught by those who do not practice it but hate it.
Although I feel weak and helpless considering the continuous backlash, lessons learned in my early childhood comfort me. Faith has taught me to fight ignorance with education and not with violence. The first word revealed to Prophet Muhammad was not kill; it was 'read.' And these are the first words read by every Muslim child: 'Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, who has taught by the pen. . . . Verily, man does transgress in disbelief and evil deed. Because he considers himself self-sufficient. Surely, unto your Lord is the return.' (Surah-96, Quran).
Cal Thomas asks, 'Will 'moderate' Muslims step up and begin isolating the fanatics?' I believe that the real fanatics -- whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim -- are those who are ignorant.
Before making a judgment about Islam, one should learn about the real Islam -- the one that is free from the political, cultural and economic hatred. The problem is not the clash between the Western and Islamic civilizations; it is the clash between the educated and the miseducated within our own Western civilization. Let each of us educate each other about our own religion through a peaceful dialogue.
Although I went to a missionary Christian school and worked at the Jewish center for a long time, I may not be competent enough to teach Christianity or Judaism to the world. So I am appalled at how non-Muslims -- who for decades have grown up believing in the separation of state and religion -- have taken charge of teaching about Islam to the world.
To teach is to touch the future, and I call upon all educators -- not politicians -- to educate, not miseducate. The war on terrorism cannot be fought by weapons. Certainly the pen is mightier than the sword.
Yasmeen Qadri is a professor of education at Valencia Community College. Note: Yasmeen Qadri also sits on the Executive Committee for the Orlando office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Orlando)