The Canadian Society of Muslims wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail (a national newspaper in Canada) regarding a letter they published Aug. 29, 1998. They refused to publish our rebuttal, so we decided to publish it here. We have removed the name of the original letter writer and inserted "xxx" for privacy considerations.
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To: The Editor -- Globe and Mail
Included here is a rebuttal to xxx's letter entitled "Islam's Disingenuous Defenders" published by The Globe and Mail on Aug. 29/98
Oh please! It sounds very much like xxx has bought into the media portrayal of Islam as a "violent and medieval belief system."
Mr. xxx seems to assume that the media is portraying Muslims accurately and that Muslims cannot convincingly defend their faith in light of this. When the first statement of an argument is false, it follows that the supporting arguments and conclusion are also false. We have all been fed a steady diet of junk food about Islam from the media. The media is unable to see its own distortions because it first needs to educate itself in an objective and unbiased way.
The media does not portray all Christianity as a 'violent and mediaeval' belief system when atrocities are perpetrated in the world today by Christians. The media does not condemn all Christians because of the IRA bombings both on and off Irish soil. The media does not condemn all Christians and all Christianity when far-right Christians murder and attack doctors who perform abortions or bomb public buildings in Ohio. Yet the media singles out Islam as the cause of corruption and violence in 'Muslim' countries while never blaming Christianity in 'Christian' countries (i.e. Mexico). They do not characterize all Christians as potential terrorists from the behaviour of organized 'Christian' groups such as the IRA, the neo-Nazis, the Bosnian Serbs, the Aryan brotherhood, the Ku Klux Klan, etc.
The reason the media does not condemn Christianity is because it is clearly not Christianity which causes these problems. The media recognizes this because they live within a predominantly Christian society. However, the media will not be able to portray Islam with any sort of accuracy until it steps back and looks at the forest instead of the trees. The media would do well to educate itself first before trying to inform the public.
As to Mr. xxx's assertion that the "Qur'an itself is filled with references to holy war, and the Prophet Muhammad was a warrior who used military power to establish the supremacy of his religion," I do not know how Mr. xxx could possibly make such an unfounded and ridiculous statement. Even a cursory examination of the historical facts will show that less than 500 people (all soldiers and no civilians) were killed in all the 'wars' during the Prophet Muhammad's lifetime (250 non-Muslims and less than 250 Muslims). The use of the word 'war' had a different connotation then than it does now. In the time of the Prophet 'war' meant what we would understand today as hand to hand combat staged on a battlefield. His battles were certainly not on the level of the two World Wars or even the Persian Gulf war. Using the word 'war' in this context is extremely misleading for the reason that to the modern day person it conjures up a mental image of the kinds of inhuman scale of mass murder of innocent civilians witnessed in recent times. For example 1) WW1 = 8,500,000 deaths; 2) WW2 = numbers vary from 35,000,000 to 60,000,000 deaths -- the statistical difference is of no small import! These numbers do not include the number of injuries or wounded because the numbers are impossible to compile.
All war is forbidden in Islam unless it is waged for a just cause ordained by the Divine law. The life of the Prophet provides reference to only three kinds of war: 1) defensive 2) punitive and 3) preventive. In his famous correspondence with the Emperor Heraclius of Byzantium, (in connection with the assassination of a Muslim ambassador in the Byzantine territory) the Prophet offered him three alternatives: 1) Embrace Islam 2) if not, then pay the tribute 3) if still not, then the Emperor should not interfere with his subjects if they wished to embrace Islam. This then, is the 'holy war' of Muhammad, and his followers. His sole object was to provide the conditions whereby the Word of God would prevail and freedom of conscience would be established for all times. All else was and is illegal. There is absolutely no question that it is forbidden to wage war in order to force people to embrace Islam or to "establish the supremacy of the religion," as Mr. xxx puts it. That would be an 'unholy war'.
How faithfully the Muslims of later generations have followed these principles in running their governments is a matter of history. History will also judge Christian governments of later generations on their adherence to their principles.
If during the two world wars, European Christians were never blamed by the media for the monumental destruction which occurred, then how can anyone justify the media's blame on the religion of Islam and its teachings for the breaches committed by delinquent followers of Islam? When people like Yasser Arafat and Osama bin Laden, who (through their actions are clearly disobeying Islamic law) are analysed by the media, they are portrayed as somehow representing all Muslims and the end result of following the Islamic faith. This is absurd. That would be like saying that the sexual indiscretions of Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, Prince Charles and others somehow represents all Christians and is the end result of following the Christian faith. Come on now, nobody believes that.
The Canadian Society of Muslims