Most Americans don’t seem to know much about Islam. The pithy T shirt “I learned everything I need to know about Islam on 9/11” is the same as saying “I learned everything I need to know about Christianity from the Crusades”.
Large numbers of Muslims are ordinary, peace-loving people who simply want their families to have a decent future. Many of these people understand the Qur’an’s declaration that Christians are Peoples of the Book, and spiritual cousins to Muslims. When a Muslim family enrolled their child into our church’s preschool and my wife said “now, we are an explicitly Christian preschool with Christian prayers, bible stories and songs” (which she says to every person enrolling their child), the Muslim family replied “Of course! That is why we chose you!” When another Muslim family came to our church’s children’s Easter program, they said to us “We are very excited, this is our child’s first Easter.” An African (Liberian, if I recall) Christian who grew up with a Muslim father once said to me “My father’s people would never have dreamed of this kind of violence. He married my Christian mother and nobody ever thought twice about it. He sent me to Catholic school because it was the best school around.”
Islam has as many splinter groups as Christianity, and many practices we assume are Islamic are simply cultural practices in a particular area, which have been woven into Islam locally. The fact that there is a tragically violent version of Islam raging in the world right now does not mean that this is how Islam has always been, nor is intrinsically. Many of the most radical versions of Islam today were virtually unheard of forty years ago. In fact, it is the vast amounts of money from the West purchasing oil from the Middle East which has funded the spread of some of the most violent Islam we see today.
Many Muslims have been inspired by their faith to accomplish great good in our world for humanity (say, for example, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for the destitute poor).
Defending what history actually shows us about Islam down through the centuries is not to say there have never been evils committed by leaders or nations or troops who were Muslim. Of course there have been – all of the world’s religions have done that, including Christian nations. But ignorant, inaccurate portrayals of the past, present, or beliefs, of Muslims is to do what Martin Luther is credited with saying: “to mis-characterize my opponents’ theology is to fail to obey the commandment to love my neighbor.” There are about 5 really common lies about Islam that American Christians ignorantly and absurdly keep repeating publicly. It’s counter to our faith to repeat lies as if they are true. And Christian publishers and broadcasters have a responsibility to check their facts. These distortions have grown to ridiculous proportions. When we repeat these 5, we are simply propagating the violent version of Islam – doing the work of the radical mullahs for them. I discuss those 5 things here: https://toddrisser.com/2015/03/17/5-things-about-islam/
I appreciate the information. My boyfriend comes from Pakistan and is Catholic. He has had bad experiences with radical Islam, but did have a lot of friends growing up who were Islamic and wonderful people. I think I probably am one of those you talk about who distort Islam at times, and I am truly sorry for it. I have tried to speak of good versions of Islam and I have the Quran on my kindle, although I haven’t gotten very far. I will make an effort to be more careful in speaking of Islam in the future.