There are five really common mis-understandings Americans have about Islam.
- Muslims have always been at war with Jews. Not true. The Qur’an makes clear Jews are People of the Book, following the same God as Muslims (Sura 2: 62,3: 84, 5: 47, 42:13, 29:46 and many more). Muhammad was allied with Jewish tribes in Arabia. In Spain, Muslims, Jews and Christians flourished together for 700 years in a Muslim empire, a brilliant, scientific civilization where Jewish people rose to the highest ranks of society. When El Cid re-took Spain in 1492 and pushed the Muslim kingdoms out, the Jews fled with the Muslims. Jews in Spain called Islam “a merciful act of God” and were far safer in most Muslim countries than in most Christian countries. The “tax” Christians and Jews were expected to pay in some countries was a small amount compared to what Muslims were expected to voluntarily give to the poor. We have many records of close friendships between Jews, Christians and Muslims of that era.
- The Qur’an says to kill Christians and Jews. In fact, it says nothing of the kind. Jews and Christians are described throughout the Qur’an as people of the Book, people God revealed Himself to, people who should follow the Torah and the Gospel. The oft-quoted verse about “fight them everywhere” refers to idol-worshipping pagan tribes who were attacking the Muslims. Context, people. (Sura 2: 190-193).
- All Islam is the same. Don’t be absurd. There are as many groups and denominations in Islam as there are in Christianity, with huge diversity. Looking at the actions of one group and saying it represents all Muslims is completely ludicrous. My sons have Muslim friends who have no interest in violence at all.
- Islam is a religion of the sword. If we look at history, we could conclude the exact same thing about Christianity. Here’s the fact: governments do what governments do. Rulers attack other nations. They use their nation’s religion to baptize and justify their wars. World War One was fought exclusively by Christian nations. How about the Rwandan genocide? It was the most Christian evangelized nation in Africa. Vigorous empires within the Muslim world expanded, as empires do. It isn’t an issue with Islam. The Qur’an forbids forcing Islam onto someone (Sura 2: 256).
- Islam is inherently violent. Then why have hundreds of millions of Muslims led peaceful lives? In fact, Muhammad forbade fighting except in self-defense (Sura 2: 191). Islam, in many parts of the world, is struggling within itself. It may even be undergoing its Reformation – Christianity’s Reformation was full of bloodshed and war over theology as well. Among the things we should pray is that peaceful Muslims will prevail. They want to raise their children in peace, just like us. But many of them do not feel that Western foreign policy is on their side.