Saturday, February 25, 2006

Can Islamic practice coexist with other world religions?

By Sean Mathews, Daily O'Collegian (Oklahoma State U.)

STILLWATER, Okla. -- In September 2005, the small country of Denmark published a series of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, one showing him with a bomb-shaped turban.
Now, half a year later, the incident has turned into an international crisis. Riots are sweeping across the Middle East, and there is no end in sight.

The cartoonists have gone into hiding, fearing for their lives. Radical clerics, inciting the incident, have offered bounties for their deaths.
The argument is that in Islam, it is blasphemous to portray the prophet Muhammad in any form.

In the hall of the U.S. Supreme Court hangs a statue depicting the prophet Mohammed. In one hand he holds a sword, and in the other, the Quran.

For more than a thousand years, the image of Mohammed has been portrayed in paintings and sculptures. This was predominant even in the Islamic Ottoman empire of 1500 A.D.
So why now is there such fury over the current portrayal of Mohammed? It would almost seem convenient given the "Western incursion" into many Middle Eastern countries.
Islamic fundamentalism is a phrase often used, and is one that is synonymous with hate and fear.

With the fervor created by the cartoons, an important question has risen: Can Islam peacefully coexist with the Western world?

Dr. Tawfik Hamid was once a terrorist. A member of the "Egyptian" terrorist group "Jama'a Islamiya", Hamid was ready to give his life to kill "the infidels." Jama'a Islamiya is also the same organization that produced Al Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Hamid, on the Fox News show "Day Side," said that the teachings of Jesus Christ were what changed his views on terrorism. Startling though is how Hamid says that in today's world, Islam is taught as a religion of destruction.

The problem might very well be having Islam, a religion where there is no separation of church and state, pitted against the Western world, where individuals share freedom of thought, expression and press.

The two are not made to coexist, and it is becoming ever more evident.
In many Western countries, especially Europe, Islam is trying to force governments to cater to its separate demands.

The BBC in Britain has reported that many European Muslims wish to follow a separate set of laws that fit with their religious affiliation.

In a significant incident, Burger Kings in Europe have changed ice cream lids because a Muslim man claimed the design resembled the Arabic inscription for Allah, and branded it sacrilegious. He then threatened a "Jihad."

It seems "Jihad" has put fear into many, as riots are turning deadly in the Middle East.
According to Hamid's personal web page, "The current understanding of the word 'Jihad' among many, if not most, Muslims is sadly to attack people of other religions and invade their lands to expand the Khelafa, or the Islamic controlled Empire."
These are chilling words coming from a man who has been one of Islam's most zealous followers.
Even more unsettling is that, according to the current teachings in Islam, infidels are any of those who do not follow Islam.

This makes a large portion of the world possibly susceptible to extremist Islamic beliefs; 9/11, Spain and London being the most extreme outcomes of these views.
With so much unrest in the Middle East, one must question the lack of riots or protests within the Muslim population of the United States.

Can it be that the United States breeds a different form of Islam, one that has assimilated to the United States' government and culture?
A large decision is at hand. Is the right to freedom of press greater than the Islamic right to religious sanctity?

Islam does not control Denmark or any other country, though many argue it is the religion's goal as prescribed in the Quran.
Why should any country suit Islam's needs when they surely would not do the same for any other religion?

What started as an attempt to express freedom of press has spiraled out of hand.
The cartoons have been a cry for the world to recognize, if not bow down to the Muslim world.
If the Western world apologizes for the cartoons and continues to change laws (and ice cream lids) to appease Islam, Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists will have won.

As for the former terrorist Hamid, who is still a Muslim, he says simply, "I am a Muslim by birth, Christian by spirit, Jewish by heart, but above all I am a human being."
This is a statement all religions can abide by.