Picture this: you own a produce stand, and your fruits are the freshest in town. One day, a customer finds a single rotten apple. That customer tells all of your other shoppers that your fruit is always rotten, even though it was just that one apple. Suddenly, you start to lose business. Just because of one apple, the whole town thinks all of your produce is rotten, taking one customer’s word for it. Unfair, right? In a similar fashion, the idea of Islam is ruined by people who use extremism, the bad apples, as a representation for the whole religion.
People are quick to peg ISIS and other proponents of extremism as Islam, but this reductionism is simply ridiculous. Islam is a generally peaceful religion, and as a Muslim who has been reading the Qur’an my whole life, I can vouch for this. The problem is a lack of proper research, and people making assumptions. If you actually open the Qur’an, and make an effort to understand Islamic law, it would be clear that ISIS is un-Islamic. Terrorist groups and Islamophobes often cite the passage, “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out,” (Qur’an 2:191). Out of context, this verse seems horrible. But the “them” in this line refers to people who have committed crimes against humanity. People assume this line means that Islam advocates murder, but what it’s really saying is to go after the instigators causing violence. During the time the Qur’an was recorded, people in Makkah were committing heinous crimes against monotheistic women and children. The Prophet and his followers were instructed to hold these people accountable for their crimes. Naysayers of Islam also conveniently leave out the line right after: “But if they cease, then Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful,” (Qur’an 2:192).
The same issue appears in other religions, but is much more amplified in Islam because it’s something foreign, and many are ready to point fingers at anyone who isn’t them. For example, the Ku Klux Klan isn’t a true reflection of Christianity, even though they preach hate in the name of Jesus Christ. Most Christians would agree that the ideas the KKK spread are a distorted and extremist version of Christianity, and hardly related to the actual religion. Similarly, extremist groups aren’t representative of Islam. I remember feeling horrified when ISIS and Al-Qaeda were taught along with the ancient Muslim caliphs in 8th grade history. Why were they teaching something so disassociated with Islam in the same unit? They didn’t teach about Christian extremism during our unit on the church. Ask any Muslim: we’ll tell you that these groups disobey almost every major Islamic law. Personally, I feel majorly disconnected from the twisted version of the religion that these extremists practice. Extremism is not equivalent to the religion it’s distorting.
Terrorist organisations often depict that Muslims target Christians and Americans for their values, but this is simply not true. The fact is, groups like ISIS kill several times more Muslims than they do anyone else. Additionally, the Qur’an reads, “There is no compulsion in religion,” (2:256). This means that no human has the right to punish someone for their beliefs, or force them into a faith. Though this idea of acceptance is one of the basic principles of Islam, ISIS rejects it, proving it is an un-Islamic group.
All of this misinformation is amplified by media and the internet. ISIS uses social media to threaten and scare people, and spread out of context Qur’anic verses. People tend to trust what they see, without doing any further research. If you are someone who believes Islam promotes violence, I encourage you to open the Qur’an and read each verse in its context. Of course, every religion has its flaws and out-of-date ideas. But if you compare the core values of Islam: love and peace, you’ll find that ISIS never has been, and never will be Islamic.