Radical Islam is not the only Islam

By now most of you have probably heard of the brutal attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

For those of you unfamiliar with this tragedy, two gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. The gunmen were Islamic terrorists, that were upset by the magazine’s cartoons that depicted and mocked the prophet Mohammed.

This is, of course, a horrific tragedy committed by delusional psychopaths, but it has also led to a great deal of anti-muslim sentiment.

There are many who believe the senseless and brutal violence perpetrated by those who call Islam their religion is due to violence inherent in the Islamic religion.

The truth is that the actual words of the Quran (specifically the 9th Sura chapter 5) are: “Then when the Sacred Months (the Ist, 7th, 11th, and 12th months of the Islamic calendar) have passed, then kill the Mushrikun (which is translated as polytheists, pagans, idolaters, etc.)  wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat (charity), then leave their way free.”

However there is a very important fact many people miss when considering Islam. Islam is not a single unified concept. Just like Christianity, there are multiple denominations of it. There is Sunni, Shia, Sufism, etc.

These verses might seem damaging to the claims of Islam being a peaceful religion, but it’s a matter of interpretation.

The majority of Muslims are in fact peaceful. Like the Bible, the Quran must be considered in it’s historical context. Many Islamic scholars argue this verse specifically only permits violence in the case of self defense

Christianity is certainly no stranger to controversy. The Bible has its share of controversial verses as well. Exodus 20:20-21 says you can beat your slave and as long as they don’t die because the slave is your property.

Timothy 2:12 says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

First Samuel 15:3 says, “‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

Really, every single man woman and child, even babies? God wanted them to kill babies? Now, the argument is often made that this was acceptable due to Divine Command Theory. Basically it’s OK because God says it is.

The argument is also made that this was OK because this nation was brutal violent people that deserved it.

Here’s the problem though, there are Christians who judge Islam for their holy book having verses that can be interpreted as encouraging or justifying violence, when Christianity itself also has a holy book with verses that could be interpreted as encouraging or justifying violence.

I’m not saying this to criticize Christianity, I am simply pointing out that there are multiple possible interpretations of a religious book.

Many, insist that the presence of violent extremists in Islam means that the whole of the religion encourages these violent acts. But if it’s okay to  judge an entire religion based on the actions of radical extremists, there are many people who have killed in the name of the Christian god. The crusades, the inquisition, both the Klu Klux Klan, and the Nazis claimed to be Christians. The point I am trying to make is that just because someone claims they are part of a particular religion, doesn’t actually make them a legitimate representation of what that religion stands for as a whole.

Christians would be offended by being compared to the KKK, Nazis or Westboro Baptists Church, despite all of these being Christian, they do not embody the majority of the religion, in the same way that Islamic extremists do not represent a majority of Islam.

Going back to the Charlie Hebdo attack, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria, and Qatar denounced the incident, as well as various Islamic organisations. The French Council of the Muslim Faith, the Muslim Council of Britain and Islamic Forum of Europe spoke out against the attack, with Sheikh Abdul Qayum and Imam Dalil Boubakeur stating, “We are horrified by the brutality and the savagery.” According to International Business Times columnist Zoe Mintz, the “Je suis Charlie” slogan was also used by Muslim social media users, with some condemning the attack specifically as an assault on free speech.

Countless other Muslims both in the US and  around the world publicly denounced these actions. This is not a Muslim attack any more than Nazi crimes were Christian crimes. These terrorists may be Islamic, but they don’t represent the diverse and open religion that Islam really is.

Mike Rauser is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].