Shadia: Let's not empower extremists

When I heard about the shooting of 14-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai by a coward, who must think he's a real man to shoot a teenage girl while on a school bus simply because she wants an education, I felt sick.

I might sound like a broken record when I tell you over and over that Islam does not support this behavior.

When I tell you that in fact, Islam liberated women and liberates women from being subjected and used by men.

When I tell you that the Prophet Muhammad fought to stop the practice of burying newborn girls by men who believed women brought shame to families in Arabia during the pre-Islamic era. In fact, there are verses in the Koran recounting these events and prohibiting it for the believers.

When I tell you that the Prophet dedicated portions of his sermons to women, that the Koran has a chapter literally called "The Women."

When I tell you that there's a chapter in the Koran dedicated to Mary, who is considered the most important woman in Islam.

When I tell you that when God addresses the believers in the Koran, he's addressing both men and women equally, unless specified otherwise.

When I tell you that Islam empowers women through calling for their education, rights and place in society.

When I tell you that the Prophet's first wife, Khadija, paid him a salary because he worked for her.

When I tell you that his second wife, Aisha, used to hold classes to teach men, among them the Prophet's own companions, on family life under Islam.

When I tell you that women, in early Islam, enlisted in the military.

But these are just the facts.

How can a person who claims to be a Muslim justify what he did if he knew these facts about the religion?

If he and the group he belongs to, which admitted to shooting Malala and announced plans to end her life if she survives, understood just a portion of what Islam is really about, the thought of stopping women from being educated — the thought of hurting a human being, let alone a little girl — wouldn't cross his mind.

But what is troubling me is much bigger than this latest incident.

It's that the minute the Taliban or some kind of psychotic individual or group calling themselves Muslim commits atrocities, so many people around the world automatically assume that they're carrying on the teachings and mission of Islam and include the 1.6 billion of us in the same circle.

Those who say Islam is the source of these individuals' action don't realize that in doing so, they empower the criminals.

And those who expect Muslims to apologize for those psychos' behaviors put us in a corner and weaken us.

Let's see if I can provide you with a clear analogy: Say you're a devout Christian and one day you're reading the newspaper about some KKK member or skinhead who lynched an African American. Now, the KKK and its members claim to be Christians who are carrying out the will of Jesus. But are they?

Well, how hurt would you be if the next day, you and your religion are being defined by the KKK's actions or by the abortion clinic bomber, who too believes he's carrying out the will of God? What if you're expected to apologize each time one of them decides to go postal?

Does it say anywhere in the Bible that black people should be lynched or that it's OK to bomb the clinics and kill the doctors who perform abortions?

I haven't seen that.

MONA SHADIA is a reporter for Times Community News. 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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