Shadia: Extremists don't speak for everyone

A variety of things enrage me about some so-called Muslims.

Sometimes those things are so atrocious that I can't fathom how these people (or governments) count themselves as Muslim.

You might know what I'm talking about.

It's the violent protests over the Koran burnings.

It's the burning of churches and death threats over newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

It's the laughable lawsuits like the one filed against an Egyptian businessman for posting a picture on Twitter of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse with a beard and a head cover.

It's a popular Egyptian actor getting jailed for defaming Islam.

It's so-called "honor killings."

And most loathsome of all: deforming and burning women's faces with acid.

If I were to reach out to the people who commit such acts, I would say: Go find another copy of the Koran. Open it up. Read what it says.

And then I would ask, Why don't you follow what it says? For once.

I would then tell them that killing innocents is impermissible in Islam, despite what some of these "Muslims" claim.

These acts are detested in God's eyes, not encouraged by him or the Koran.

Keep reading, I would say.

The Koran will tell you that God's punishment for unjust and criminal activities is so grave, escaping them is impossible.

But to the non-Muslims, I would say something else:

First of all, some of those who act this way can't even read. It's sad. But it's the reality.

I can see why each of these incidents come off like more of the same from these "crazy 'mooslems' out there."

I can see why it gives the impression that all Muslims subscribe to this behavior.

But they are not all the same, and, most important, these are the behaviors of a minority, an uneducated, knee-deep-in-their-ignorance kind of minority.

And I'm here to tell you they do not represent my religion.

Not all of the 1.6 billion-and-counting Muslims behaved the same way when burned copies of the Koran turned up at an American military base.

The protests were not really about the burning of the Koran, many Afghanis have said in interviews.

Maruf Hotak, a 60-year-old Afghan who joined the protests in Kabul, was quoted in the New York Times saying, "This is not just about dishonoring the Koran; it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children."

By "disrespecting our dead," Hotak was talking about the pictures of American soldiers urinating on dead bodies.

"They always admit their mistakes," he told the New York Times. "They burn our Koran and then they apologize. You can't just disrespect our holy book and kill our innocent children and make a small apology."

What about the other incidents, you ask? The ones that admittedly embarrass me, the kind of attacks on women that fill my eyes with tears and leave me feeling helpless?

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of theCouncil on American-Islamic Relations, said you can divide these incidents into three categories.

First are the ones with political, rather than religious, undertones, such as the reaction to the recent Koran burning. Ayloush said going after the people in Afghanistan who are upset about the Koran burning is like beating up the victim twice.

"I agree the response to such incidents should be nonviolent, civilized and Islamic," he said. "But it's morally difficult for me to repeatedly tell the victim 'stop being angry' when we are not even considering the injustice done to them and their country as a result of our occupation and military actions there."

The second involves incidents that are culturally or personally driven. The horrific acts of "honor" killing and acid attacks on women have nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with an attempt by the perpetrators to protect the "honor" of these individuals' tribes and families.

Growing up in Cairo, I heard stories and even saw old movies depicting how some families, Muslim and Christian alike, practiced honor killing in some rural areas of Egypt. The stories to me were foreign and unreal, like something right out of Shahrazad's tales. But horrific.

The third is crazies who turn a joke or an unintended offense into a death threat or a court case.

While all look to be like the same, painting them with the same broad brush and blaming Islam is unfair.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the level of education. The reason I and most Muslims would never react the same way to Koran burning, caricatures of the prophet in newspapers or Twitter pictures of Muslim Disney characters is because we're educated.

But we are fortunate here. When a people's access to information is confined, when their communication skills are restricted to shouting and screaming, what they do will always be limited.

But what they do, whether the result of ignorance or pure craziness, has nothing to do with Islam. They do not speak or act on behalf of my Prophet or my God.

MONA SHADIA is a reporter for the Huntington Beach Independent. An Egyptian American, she was born and raised in Cairo and now lives in Orange County. Her column includes various questions and issues facing Muslims in America. Follow her on Twitter @MonaShadia.

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