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Another Voice: Meet extremism by promoting education about Islam

By Yunus Kumek

Islam is an Abrahamic religion whose name literally means “peace and submission.” However, Muslims currently face a challenge from violent elements using their religion as justification. A minuscule, but loud, group is committing inhuman actions of violence in the name of Islam. I argue that the most effective way to address this violence is to educate both Muslims and the wider public on the well-established traditions of Islam itself, which condemns cruel acts of brutality.

Muhammad’s life is a role model for all Muslims. He strongly opposed malicious violence and his views were based upon the Quran’s verse that equates the killing of an innocent person with killing all humanity (Quran 5:32).

Muhammad clearly demonstrated respect for ethnic and religious diversity. He stood to honor the funeral parade of a Jewish man, and by doing so taught people to respect humans for their moral attributes, regardless of their faith. He also allowed Christians of Najran to perform their prayers right in his mosque in Madina and exemplified religious tolerance.

That non-Muslim ancient religions and communities were safe in Muslim lands for hundreds of years under Islamic rule testifies to the accommodating nature of the religion.

“Read” is the first verse revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Education offers us the possibility of resolving many human problems, including the mistaken views of violence in Islam. So, how is it possible that a religion that so strongly promotes peace and dialogue can be manipulated to such a degree that vulnerable young Muslims are drawn into violence? There is an overwhelming consensus in Islamic scholarly traditions against civil violence and far too few opportunities to expand one’s knowledge about Islam.

Muslims should be constantly educating themselves and their fellow citizens about the danger of violence in our world, focusing upon the original teachings of the Quran and genuine practices of Muhammad.

Perhaps college curricula should provide educational opportunities to examine and study Islam for all levels of learners to promote critical thinking and creative thought in producing answers to social problems.

It is our government’s responsibility to find the perpetrators of terrorist acts and punish them to the full extent of the law. However, the long-term strategy of fighting this disease of terrorist ideology should be with the therapy of ideas through education.

Islam consists of a diversity of sects and perspectives and practically all condemn violence. A broad campaign in teaching the study of each religion and culture, including Islam, will unite us against violence and bigotry that equally threatens all of us.

Yunus Kumek, Ph.D., is a research associate in the Anthropology Department of the University at Buffalo.