Despite extremism, Islam engages in productive, harmonious living

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People of different faiths from the UT community share dinner at Nueces Mosque in West Campus on Oct. 15.  

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Saifuddin Merliahmad | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: “Peace be upon him” (abbreviated “pbuh”) is a salutation for the prophets of Islam. It is a mandatory practice per the Quran and hadiths. In addition, note that Muslims believe that Jesus was a Prophet.”

Two weeks ago, on Oct. 15, the University Interfaith Council hosted the “Progressive Dinner” at Nueces Mosque, a Muslim place of worship located in West Campus, where the Muslim community engaged in meaningful dialogue and strengthened the bonds between the University’s different faiths on campus. Next week, on Nov. 2, Nueces Mosque will host an Open House Interfaith Dinner. These events are steps in the right direction, but we must do more. 

Without a doubt, the majority of extremists today cite Islam as their justification for their bloody acts of terrorism. However, I would argue that the way to combat extremism, which most Muslims spurn, is not to attack Muslims or Islam but the opposite. By citing differences and inflaming tensions between Muslims and the rest of the world, we empower extremists. Just this past Friday, Pastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas spoke on “The O’Reilly Factor,” stating that to his congregation, he preaches that Islam is a false religion and its Prophet Muhammad (phuh) is both violent and false. Sadly, this is not just a Fox News problem. Bill Maher recently came under fire for his sweeping generalizations and Islamophobic comments as well. If we want to hold the extremists at bay, we must start by discouraging and condemning the pastor’s and Maher’s rhetoric, and additionally, we must realize that Islam is not inherently incompatible and antagonistic to a peaceful and civic society. As a Muslim, I feel alienated, but as the following two examples will point out, we have lived together for a very long time, peacefully and productively. 

First, every Christian knows the religion’s holiest sites are in Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of Resurrection, is the holiest of those sites. This church is believed to be where Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. Did you know that the holiest site in Christendom is opened and closed every day by Muslims?   

To be specific, two Muslims, from two Palestinian clans who have been the custodians of the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre since the twelfth century, open the doors every day at 4:30 a.m. In an article by the International Business Times, the history of their stewardship is narrated by Nuseibeh, of the Nuseibeh clan, one of the two families to which the Church is entrusted.

“After the Muslim conquest in 637, the Caliph Omar guaranteed the Archbishop Sophronius that the Christian places of worship would be protected and so entrusted the custodianship to the Nuseibehs, a family who originated in Medina and had had relations with the Prophet Muhammad,” Nuseibeh said.

“It happened again in 1187, after Saladin ended the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem,” Nuseibeh said. “He chose our family again to look after the peace between the different Eastern and Western Christian confessions, which were at odds over control of the Sepulchre.”

Next, there are multiple narrations describing how Muslims saved the Jews during the Holocaust. In one such article, titled “Meet the Muslims who sacrificed themselves to save Jews and fight Nazis in World War II,” Noor Khan served for the British’s Special Operations Executive as a wireless operator in Paris, a position in which the average employee survived six weeks. She was later captured and murdered by the Germans.

My argument is not to say that Muslims have made more positive contributions relative to other faiths. Followers of all religions have at one point committed at least one crime against another, and it would be counterproductive to argue whose religion has been the aggregate plus for humanity. What I am arguing is that Muslims and non-Muslims have lived harmoniously and productively in the past, and we can do so now and into the future. Our scriptures encourage it, and our overwhelming example does as well. I’ll end with an excerpt from a letter sent by Imam Ali’s (pbuh), the fourth Caliph and first Imam for Shiites, to one of his governors. 

“Be not in face of them a voracious animal, counting them as easy prey, for they are of two kinds: either they are your brothers in religion or your equals in creation.”

Rizvi is a government senior from Dallas.