By Prof. Dr. Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal, New Age Islam
19 Sept 2012
Recently, the Muslims all over the world have staged strong protest against the offensive film produced in the USA that carries a lot of blasphemous material against Islam in general and the Prophet (PBUH) in particular. These protests have resulted casualties of more than dozen Muslims in various countries and four Americans, including its Ambassador in Libya.
Before discussing the plausibility Muslims outrage, let us for an initial moment, take the human psyche into consideration. Survival and retaliation are integral part of the human psyche. An average human being reacts in a similar way as he is attacked by his opponent; whether it is in the form of a physical assault or an exchange of harsh words or feelings of hatred. Ironically, in the case of blasphemy against their Prophet or religion, Muslims are at a loss for evening out the scores, as it is a part of their unshakable faith to believe in and respect the prophets of the Christians and the Jews as well as their revealed books. Indeed, much of the beliefs parallel those in the Christian world. For example, the Qur’anic verse (2), 285, recapitulates the basic articles of the faith in the following words:
The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His apostles. "We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles." And they say: "We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys."
Then several verses of Qur’an testify the Virginity, Holiness and Honour of the Mary. Verse (3) 45 of Qur’an says “Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah.”
When in the US few years back, I along with family, watched a TV movie about Jesus. When Mary appeared walking through barren land in search of a relative’s house my sons recognized the tale. When Mary meets a woman, my boys quickly recognized Elizabeth, the wife of Zakariya, who would give birth to a son who would be a companion of Jesus. Suddenly, time and place compressed. We didn’t seem so far away at all. Common faith closed the gaps. But in the general public of the western world, that commonality is not so well known. Muslims believe in three religions—Islam, Christianity and Judaism--although they practice only one.
Similarly, when we saw The Ten Commandments, they recalled what would happen next: “Moses will drop his stick”, one of them uttered. The other said,” This snake will engulf other two”. When the Moses reached the river, the third boy said, “When he now drops the stick, the river water will part, creating a dry path for his companions to pass”.
Their reactions reflected not only their knowledge of other religions, in addition to their own, but also their respect toward them. On the contrary, when they experienced the attitudes of so many American toward Islam, they were bewildered. They asked why the western media coined so many terms that depict a negative image of Muslims and Islam that infuriate, humiliate and are contemptuous. Views of authors of the books “Sword of the Prophet and “The Life and Religion of Muhammad” and those on the salon.com website are just few examples.
Failure of US universities to teach about Islam and the Muslim world results in a trickle down effect that strikes in K-12 classrooms. That is what my children experienced in their schools in Texas few years back. The distorted impression held by their peers and teachers disturbed them. They remain uninformed, not only about their country, but the Muslim religion as well. My children were caught in a dilemma, the dilemma of all innocent Muslim minds, because Islam forbids uttering insulting remarks about the prophets of other religions.
It is no denying the fact that there is an ever-greater need to develop understanding between the US and the Muslim world. But, it also fact that the US government’s efforts to “reach out to the Muslim world” will not suffice. There are reasons to believe that such unidirectional efforts to reinvigorate the campaign for winning hearts and minds of the Muslim world are less likely to bridge the psychological gap between two cultures. While reach out policy is intended to burnish the U.S. image in the Muslim world, it is equally important to correct the distorted image of the Muslim world in the US. For this, both the Universities in the US as well as the K-12 education has greater role to play.
Hafiz Mohammed Iqbal, a retired professor of Educational Psychology and the Dean Faculty of Education, University of the Punjab, was a visiting Fulbright scholar at the University of Texas. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org