The Truth About Islam
One Bosnian woman's prayer for understanding in the wake of the Paris attacks.
At a time when the world is shaken by terror and Paris mourns, I sit baffled, angry, frustrated, and worried about the present, past, and the future that is unfolding for our generation. Why the violence? Why the murders? Why the chaos?
I have no answers, only heartbreak. I offer no consolations or promises that it will get better; that people will learn or grow. I offer no excuses, reasons, or solutions. I offer nothing but my unrelenting sadness in a situation that only seems to highlight the ideology of institutionalized fear served to U.S. citizens in pill form – a dangerous pill that we willingly swallow repeatedly without question, only to be devastated by a loss of promise in humanity; and yet, we stay conditioned to take, drink, and repeat.
My blood is boiling. Because as unspeakable terror strikes innocents again, the people who have swallowed another dose of institutionalized fear have taken to social media calling for more violence and a desecration of the Muslim population. And while I completely understand that such terrorist attacks carry Islamic connotations, it cannot be stated that all Muslims deserve to be "wiped from the earth;" that "these animals all deserve to die."
I am a Muslim. I have for years listened to narrow-minded, bigoted, uneducated, and "patriotic" people list heinous things that should happen to Muslims – the kind of fate that Muslims should meet – a disgusting hellish death. I have listened to people who know nothing about Islam bash Muslims using hateful terminology and spread untruthful bigotry about the teaching of violence and submission.
I have listened and I have said nothing to rebut; nothing to highlight that all major religions require an element of submission; nothing to note that the hundreds of millions of Muslims in Indonesia and Bangladesh have not caused a peep in our media; that violence is not taught, but is a characteristic that can be brought to any religion by the individual submitting to its practices.
I have said nothing because I have been embarrassed. Following 9/11, being a Muslim became a Scarlet Letter: "M" for "Muslim." M for traitor. M for perpetrator. M for cold-blooded terrorist. M for murderer.
It meant being ashamed of your core values. It meant being condemned by society at large for the morals that shaped you. It meant siding with Al-Qaeda and ISIS. It meant that you were a terrorist supporting all of the unforgivable things that terrorists did "in the name of Islam." It meant being searched at airports. It meant doubting yourself.
It meant becoming a whipping post for bigoted misunderstanding. A misunderstanding on which propaganda capitalized as U.S. media prepared its pills of anti-Islam indoctrination for the American people to take, all the while knowing that most of the population would without any questions.
And they were right. The population at large did not take more than a prayer's moment before religion, instead of reason and logic, was used to distort public opinion and spread misunderstanding about Islam on Nov. 13.
It is insulting. Imagine if I suggested that all Christians encompass the values and morals of the Westboro Baptist Church. Or worse, the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine if I thought that the Christian faith believed and supported the heinous things that those two organizations do and believe – the murders on their hands. Imagine if I thought that all Christians were racist and homophobic.
Just imagine that those organizations were the faces of the Christian faith. That those were your mascots. That the things you believed and valued were depicted by the most nonsensical and extreme interpreters of your faith.
Now imagine that you had absolutely no way to show the world otherwise.
Islam is a beautiful religion with nurturing surahs and hopeful prayers. It encourages understanding and selflessness and teaches compassion – a sense of doing good not only for yourself, but for others. Anyone who has read the Quran would agree.
Anyone using logic would also understand that the Quran is open to several interpretations and that it can be used in a malicious way just like all scriptures. No major religion's history is clean. All major religions have in some capacity killed innocent people for the sake of religious beliefs. That is a fact.
Media has distorted Islam, just as jihadists and terrorists have, into something unrecognizable by its peaceful followers who do not support the acts of groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Non-extremist Muslims are horrified at what their religion has turned into. We have been robbed of the ability to practice and believe without alienation and isolation. We have come to suffer the utmost hate for consequences that were not ours to bear; punishments that weren't ours to carry out; a history that we did not make.
And yet, here we are. Unimaginably watching "Islam" become a synonym for "terror."
This time, I will not sit silently as we all mourn the victims in Paris. I pray for their families and for the people brutally taken from this life. I pray that we mend our scars and build stronger understandings. I pray that we come to better understand religion and Islam so that we can eradicate terrorism from our everyday "norm."
And I pray that we heal. I pray that we communicate and that we forgive so that we can finally start working toward a better future. I pray.
Because here's the truth about Islam – it is not what you see splattered across your news screens at night, but rather, it is an artfully crafted ideology that teaches people respect, faith, solidarity, understanding, patience, kindness, worth, hard work, and that love – well, love is the whole thing. And we – we are only pieces.
Ajla Glavasevic is a first-generation Bosnian immigrant full of spunk, sass, and humor who was raised in Erie and very much still considers it home. She graduated from SUNY Buffalo with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and received her J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Ajla is currently a licensed attorney in Pa. and when she isn't lawyering and writing, the former Team USA Women's Bobsled athlete (2014-2015 U.S. National Team) likes to stay active, travel, and struggle through learning the German language. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or read her blog at ajlaglava.wordpress.com.