Kuwait City - Just about any time I turn on the TV, I see something related to terrorism and Islam. The consistent buzzwords used in most broadcasts include "Islamists", "Muslim extremists" or "Islamic terrorists". And the rest of the story is followed by a scene of mayhem and carnage that some misguided souls carried out.
I wish I knew who created these words so I could at least roll my eyes at them for their lack of creativity.
But my question is: what does Islam have to do with it?
As a convert to Islam, I struggle with how much of the media paints all Muslims with the same brush. Just because a terrorist happens to be Muslim, Islam is declared to be the root of his or her evil. There are, unfortunately, terrorists all over the world who are not Muslim. And from what I've seen, their religion is rarely attached to their crimes.
I have never heard or seen the words "Christian fundamentalist" or "Hindu extremist" precede a story about a non-Muslim who commits an act of terror. They are rightfully called by the name their crimes have earned them: a terrorist, for example, and their religion has nothing to do with it.
The consistent media mislabelling creates a burden for Muslims all over the world.
With a global population of 1.5 billion, nearly all Muslims are peaceful citizens and would never dream of harming anyone. It's not surprising that such a large percentage of Muslims are law-abiding citizens, given that peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance was ordained centuries ago in the Qur'an.
The few so-called Muslims who do engage in acts of terror have either never studied the Qur'an or have twisted the text to serve their own diabolical aims, which often have more to do with politics, property or nationalism than with Islam itself.
As Islam and terrorism are ever united in the media, irrespective of how unfair it may be, the challenge that lies ahead for all Muslims is to denounce terrorism wherever it is hiding.
But Muslims must do more than just simply pay lip-service to denounce these crimes. It is the duty of all Muslims to take our religion back from those who would seek to sully its good name. Simply insisting that Islam is a religion of peace is not enough.
We must show that Islam means peace through our daily actions, which is extremely difficult given that mass media only continues the use of those buzzwords. However, no matter how difficult, presenting the proper message of Islam is a deed incumbent upon all Muslims.
Living in the Arab Gulf, it's easy to pass the days mingling in our own little cliques of fellow Muslims. After all, Muslims are the majority in the Middle East. However, there are non-Muslim expatriates all around.
Reaching out to them with a friendly hand in peace and paving the path for mutual understanding will go a long way in building a bridge of friendship between different faiths and cultures.
Making such an effort can have quite a ripple effect. The goodwill generated from such actions may reach the furthest spans of the earth as these expatriates return home and share with others the peacefulness of Islam that they experienced firsthand.
* Sumayyah Meehan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Kuwait-based American writer. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from Khaleej Times.
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