Monday, 20 June 2016

I am a Muslim

By Safiyya Ismail

“I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.” - Muhammad Ali.

Last week I watched the memorial service of a great human being where everyone came together to celebrate this proud Muslim pioneer. His messages were clear: Islam was a religion of peace, non-discrimination, and a religion of love.

Fast forward to a week later, and it’s like the flip of a switch. The praise heard for the religion last week, has turned so quickly into hatred.

It’s incomprehensible how one mentally unstable person with a history of domestic violence with so many skeletons in his closet could be the cause of this.
How can this guy possibly be a poster boy for Muslims everywhere?

I hear so many versions of Muslims every time someone is responsible for killing a group of people or bombing parts of a city. “Islamist,” “radical Muslim,” “radical Islamist,” “fundamentalist Muslim,” “moderate Muslim” and “conservative Muslim, to mention but a few.”

And suddenly, just reciting the Quran, praying 5 times a day, fasting, or attending the local mosque is viewed with suspicion.

I have now reached the point of switching my TV off every time I see a panel of speakers. All they talk about is “radical Islam”. I’m so tired of seeing Muslims who have to come on TV and apologise for those who bomb, kill, and create mayhem. We have to give a list of everything that we are not.
Why do we have to make excuses for those who hate?

 All I can say is that they are ignorant, filled with hatred and twist verses to suit them. They have zero respect for men, women or children. And those who do not pledge allegiance to them are killed. It’s not like I know them, but one thing I do know is that they are sick. They have hijacked a religion and are using it to the max.
Dumb questions always follow these events; questions such as: what kind of Muslim are you and where do you come from?

I am a Muslim.

I am also proudly South African.

My parents were born here, as were my grandparents. My great grandparents were brought here on “slave ships from India” to work on the plantations. I am more South African than I ever will be an “Indian from India”.

I have no ties to nor am I affiliated with any terrorist group or network and I certainly do not scout any forums to read up on conversations regarding terror cells.
Instilled in me are values my parents taught me: love all, hate none, be generous and respect all people. Help your neighbour, feed the poor, give to charity - the list goes on. Never did I receive any negative teaching from my parents or Imams, and not once did anyone say, “hate those who do not believe, or kill, plunder and murder.” In fact every time my mother hears about “suicide bombers” she says “Astagfirullah!”

Because it is an expression of shame, killing oneself is detested in Islam. Now imagine taking innocent lives with you - how much more deplorable is that?
As a Muslim, you know what really fascinates me?

I love Sufism. I enjoy mystical music and poetry. I long to visit Baghdad one day, to feel how Sufi’s mid-9th century felt like. I want to watch the "Whirling Dervishes" from the Mevlevi order of Turkish Sufis. I yearn to sit and listen to them recite teachings of Rumi. I would love the opportunity to spin around like the semazens; to shed my ego and lift my right hand in order to receive grace from God.

Oh, by the way I also pray, recite the Quran and attend Muslim gatherings too!

Does any of the above make me a threat to you? Does it classify me as a “Radical Islamist”, or a “terrorist”? This alone goes against what these terrorists stand for. I would be killed at the mere mention of mystical music or poetry.

I am Muslim.

I am a colleague who brings you tasty treats.

I am your friend who wishes you well over Christmas, Diwali, and Rosh Hashanah.

I am your neighbour who assists you in times of need.

I am the person who will help you to pick up something you dropped on the floor.

I am the one who will invite you into my home to partake in a meal with my family because you are alone, and I would want you to feel part of a family.

There is no need to drum up paranoia against the Muslims who actually understand what it means to be Muslim. Why should every Muslim be viewed with suspicion? Stop shoving the rest of us into boxes, labelling us as “adicals” or “terrorists” and then silencing us when we do speak out.

We are accused of not doing enough. Is this not enough? The mere mention of ISIS or any terrorist organisation, probably puts you on a list which is monitored.

As a Muslim, I stand for peace and love, and will never condone the killing of any human being of any religion, colour, creed, sexual orientation, be it in any country.
It’s like we have to walk around with the following all the time:
“No, all Muslims are not terrorists.”
“No, not all terrorists are Muslim.”

We also have to ensure we have a back up. A verse from our holy book. How do we educate all of you and make you understand that not all of us are the same? What do we have to do to prove that we are peaceful?

What do people want us to do? Put our hands over heart, pledge loyalty, prove our peaceful stance whilst our very own also bleed from these attacks by ISIS, the Taliban, or any other terrorist group?

I think it’s time to stop fighting each other, and start fighting those who brought the fight to us all.

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