The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

What’s to admire about Muslims?

with 10 comments

After I posted What Muslims Really Think, a reader left an important comment. You won’t find it pleasant, for it points to one of the more famous weaknesses of Americans: we don’t know much about the rest of the world. But it is important, and it is honestly asked, and so, where else can we begin? Here’s the comment (and I wince):

I cannot think of one think I admire about Muslims, or should I say Islam, since I have met individual Muslims that I do admire. I was wondering if you could list some of the things you admire about Islam that I might consider.

Honest Poet offered a collection of grand ideas at that same thread. And here’s my own first offering: excerpts from a post by Eboo Patel, founder and director of the Interfaith Youth Corps (found thru Clipmarks excellent clipper Arifsali, who found it in the Washington Post/Newsweek’s On Faith). Emphases are mine.

Iboo Patel

The Spell of Islamophobia

A few weeks ago, I was on Radio Times, the mid-morning talk show on Philadelphia Public Radio. […]

I spoke about how Muslim history and theology support religious pluralism. I talked about many of my Muslim heroes, scholars and activists like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir who have articulated visions of a world where people from different backgrounds come together in positive ways. I described my book, Acts of Faith, which tells my story of how the discovery of my Muslim identity inspired me to start the Interfaith Youth Core. (Listen to the podcast) […]

The phones started ringing off the hooks. The callers basically had two questions: “Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism?” And, “Where are the moderate Muslim voices?”

One caller said, “I was raised a Catholic and we were taught love and acceptance. You were raised a Muslim … and you were taught hatred which leads to violence.” […]

I answered each question pretty directly. I effectively said there are many moderate Muslim voices. You just heard one of them – mine – speak for about thirty minutes. Instead of continuing to ask that question,
please tell your friends about me. I cited several other such voices.

I expanded on many of the points that I had made in the initial conversation with Marty Moss-Coane – that the dominant ethos of Islam tends towards compassion and pluralism, values that Islam shares with
other traditions.

But I admit, there was a little voice inside my head that wanted to say to some of these callers, “Don’t you feel a little embarrassed revealing that level of ignorance and bigotry on Public Radio? Do you know nothing more about the religion of one-fifth of humankind for over 1000 years but the violent bits? […]

I am convinced that if I got up on stage and did nothing but list the names of Muslim leaders I know who have very publicly condemned terrorism (check out the Not in the Name of Islam campaign, signed by 700,000 people and only one small example of Muslims condemning terrorism), people would still ask me “Why don’t Muslim leaders condemn terrorism?”

So here’s my new theory on this. There has been a spell cast on certain portions of America. Whenever they see a Muslim speaking – it doesn’t matter whether the talk is about gardens or finance or peace –
they fall into a hypnotic state and can only ask two questions: “Where are the moderate Muslims?” and “Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism?” […]

OK, where shall we take it from here? What can you add that would help us learn what we don’t know?

Tags: , , , , , , , Monte Asbury


Written by Monte

March 14, 2008 at 11:52 pm

Posted in Islam, Religion

10 Responses

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  1. Really! I didn’t know! Thanks.

  2. “The author of “The Prophet” was a Muslim. I often hear a certain one of his poems read at Christian weddings.”

    Actually, Khalil Gibran was an Arab Christian. I agree with the rest of what you said though.


    March 16, 2008 at 1:13 pm

  3. The author of “The Prophet” was a Muslim. I often hear a certain one of his poems read at Christian weddings.

    Hey, wasn’t the Oklahoma City bomber a devout Christian?

    As for the Jewish/Muslim thing: From this day forth I think I’ll say “Rachel Corrie” every time a Jewish person says something bad about Islam. Today, I believe, is the 5th anniversary of this peace activist’s murder by an IDF soldier, who drove a tank right over her, and then backed up over her dead body, and then had the nerve to call it an “accident.”

    None of us can afford to be snooty about our religion’s “superiority” over others.

  4. Today is the 40th anniversary of the My Lai massacre. Perhaps when we condemn other religions, we should also remember that we haven’t been compassionate Christians all of the time….


    March 15, 2008 at 11:40 pm

  5. I was raised a Catholic and I used to like to look at my mom’s old high school books. She had one on Mohammed (as it was spelled), Prince of Darkness. I believe it was printed in 1959, but I no longer have the copy. My mom is long dead and never talked about Islam so I don’t know what she thought, but I suspect a lot of people were shaped by views like that. My first encounter with real Islam was when I read the Koran in graduate school and learned more about the Muslim world of the 12th century, including how influencial Avicenna and others were on Thomas Aquinas. My own ignorance shocked me. As a Catholic, no one told me St. Thomas admired Islamic philosophers and thinkers (even though he argued with them, he saw them as important and erudite). I have since met many Muslims and I can think of lots of things to admire that I admire in many people: religious faith, neighborliness, a strong work ethic, a rich cultural tradition that they honor, and much more. It saddens me that we have so little tolerance, but greater tolerance comes from greater knowledge of one another.


    March 15, 2008 at 11:29 pm

  6. BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum. Monte, this is an interesting series. May Allah Almighty reward you for your good deeds. You wrote,

    “What can you add that would help us learn what we don’t know?”

    I recently wrote a post on the Islamic “affirmation of faith” known as “amantu“. The post is called, What Do Muslims Believe? and I think you will find it interesting.



    March 15, 2008 at 9:50 pm

  7. I’m an ex-Muslim. Islam has a lot of good points; a strong emphasis on charity, guaranteed rights for every member of society (not that most Muslim societies meet this standard), emphasis on personal justice, enjoining moderation and discipline in life, etc. Unfortunately, it has much the same problem that all belief systems suffer from, that one holds pre-conceived notions that make it easy to do things out of accord with reality, for one famous example flying planes into buildings. I am not only including religion in this statement, but all strongly held belief about the world that one refuses to question.


    March 15, 2008 at 9:34 pm

  8. […] Monte Asbury This entry was written by irfghan, posted on March 15, 2008 at , filed under Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « The endless search for “fear of offending Muslims” copy […]

  9. I want to clarify, my comment about Budhism was initially intended to indicate that I was surprised they could be violent. I re-typed that paragraph but inexplicably left that comment there. What I get for blogging at 3AM :)


    March 15, 2008 at 3:16 am

  10. Religions morph and grow and evolve over time in the same way that people do. We could certainly find points in time where any of the major religions (even Budhism, I was surprised to find) have demonstrated and inspired admirable traits, and times when they failed to help their participants overcome the baser instincts of their nature.

    This is simply a property of human nature. We tend to select a bogey man and assign to them all of the traits that we consider undesirable. They are violent. They are intolerant. They hate women. They serve a false god. They rape women and eat babies and sell crack and don’t brush regularly. Whatever.

    We then tend to think that God wants what we tend to want Him to want. God WANTS me to marry that person, God WANTS me to play football in Green Bay, Got WANTS me to take that church for 3 times the money. Whatever.

    Somewhere within Islam there exists the Muslim equivalent of George W. Bush. There’s a Berny Ebbers, a Paris Hilton, and a Rush Limbah.

    There’s also a Gandhi, and a Martin Luther King Jr., and probably even a Joe Hayes (might have put myself in the wrong list? ;-) ).

    And when we finally all stop and accept that point, we’ll start to get it. The Koran’s going to talk out of both sides of it’s mouth on any given subject in the same way that the bible does. BUT, If we objectively viewed the Koran in light of the place and time of a given writing and the effect it has had on it’s readers, we would probably find patterns of thought and recognition very similar to what we find in the Bible, and patterns of behavior through time very similar to what we find in Christianity. Karen Armstrong’s book Holy War certainly seems to support this theory with historical evidence.

    So, What do I admire about Islam? That so far no Muslim’s have knocked on my door to give me a tract ;-).

    I’ll bet that, if there is a heaven, there will be Muslims there with Christians, and that the Muslims in hell will be talking to the Christians in hell about how they wish they’d played nicer in the sand-box.

    Well, I’ve been wrong before.


    March 15, 2008 at 3:14 am

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