I won’t lie to anyone that I left class this morning feeling like a dimwit. This is because class discussion and debate is very messy & things said are easily misinterpreted. In other words, I want to say X and give my reasons why I am saying X. However, in a class of some 50 to 60 students, coupled with a lecturer, there is a high probability that you will be interrupted while you are a quarter way through explaining X. Also expect that you might struggle to convey X in a concise way that others may understand while you are speaking. All this accumulates and you fail to say X, and this is exactly what happened this morning in class.
We watched a video of a Muslim woman, Dalia Mogahed, deliberately misleading her audience (I counted several places where clearly false statements were made, false comparisons were drawn to other worldviews, & several references to studies were made that were not verbally footnoted; they were just said as fact). However, some of her intentions were noble; she was trying to correct a common misconception that Westerners have of Muslims (they’re terrorists, oppressed etc.). This I fully understand since she is wholly correct. The vast, vast majority Muslims are awesome people living in peace with others, and they shouldn’t be associated with terrorists; that’s unfair. I am also extremely sorry that Islamophobia affects her family (10:29 min) – this is a true reality & something many Muslims have to deal with. We needn’t dispute that, but then Mogahed brings this all down upon herself. Consider this statement that was a cause for concern for me:
“Isis has as much to do with Islam as the Ku Klux Klan has to do with Christianity” (8:57) & to this the crowd in the video erupts in applause and I’m sitting in the lecture thinking “are you actually being serious?” Am I the only one who saw this?
Let’s consider this. What she is doing is divorcing the violence done in the name of Islam from what terrorists have done in the world. The scary thing is that what Isis, Al-Shabaab and others do in the name of Islam is consistent with the teachings & actions of Muhammad. Their actions are very, very, very consistent (just read the Koran in its context, like I have, and you will see exactly what I am saying – I’d recommend one reads The First Muslim by Lesley Hazleton on this subject – I do not claim to be a scholar of Islam; I claim to know some things about it, that’s all). Now, I am not saying that Muhammad was not sent by God as his true messenger, or that the Koran is not inspired. This disagreement I have has got absolutely nothing to do with truth claims about religions; Islam may well be the one true religion. Let’s not confuse that.
So, when I answered this in class I took the teachings of Jesus as the example for Christianity (after all, Christianity is based upon Jesus’ & Paul’s pedagogics). In this context the crusades, the witch hunts, inquisitions, slavery etc. are not consistent with the teachings of Jesus (see: Mat. 5:39, 26:52). Now, don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that Christianity shouldn’t account for evils done in the world in the name of Jesus (think of slavery, Apartheid South Africa, for example). Christians should take responsibility and review where things became muddled up etc. However, I am not, like Mogahed, trying to divorce Christianity from having to account for the violence done in its name. But this was not what I was trying to say, and before I could even get to finishing off this point I was interrupted by a student behind me as well as my lecturer. My lecturer (who I fully respect, and who is fully awesome) said: “Well, the Psalms (in the Bible) says that we are to bash babies on rocks!”
Now I am fully stumped (she is referring to Psalm 137:9)! Why am I stumped? Namely because I am trying to explain X (i.e. Jesus’ teachings vs. Muhammad’s) which is not the Old Testament, and, secondly, I am totally taken aback by this challenge coming from my lecturer who is a Christian! (my lecturer was noble in trying to get me to think (probably supposing I haven’t thought through this before. Trust me I have), but this was wrong since she, alongside others, misinterpreted what I was actually saying). The point is that this is irrelevant. The psalmist is lamenting Israel’s captivity by the Babylonians, and wishing upon them ill fortune (namely that their babies die as revenge for what they’ve done to Israel). The point is that the Bible is also a human book full of details that God doesn’t condone. God allowed for people to express their pain in scripture (we see this in the people of Job, David, Paul Jesus himself etc.). This was a rabbit trail that I did not expect to be lead down. And I’m now thinking: “What am I meant to explain now?” Am I meant to explain what the psalmist was saying in its context (since the lecturer brought it up), or am I to go on explaining my initial point (which has now been lost)? So, I am now facing confusion and to add salt to this wound I am now also being told that I misunderstood what Mogahed had said in the video (which I certainly did not). Which of these three options am I to respond to?
However, I’m feeling like an idiot because I was misrepresented. It was a very unfortunate situation for all parties, namely my other classmates (who might think I misrepresented them or their friends, family etc.) and myself (because now I am feeling like a total idiot). I also don’t intend to come over as intolerant of others, especially my Muslim brothers & sisters. If I came over as forceful in my explanation (I feel I may have when I said that Mogahed had just lied almost a dozen times in her presentation) I fully apologize and request forgiveness from those I may have offended. I don’t dislike anyone. I love Muslims, I love atheists and I love my Christian brothers & sisters. I may fully and strongly disagree with them, but that shouldn’t be taken as an attack on them as valuable people who possess intrinsic dignity.
However, despite unfortunate circumstances like this (it’s not the first I’ve been in) I left the lecture strongly convinced that many Americans (most westerners are not fully aware of Muhammad’s teachings, the Koran, and the later Hadiths) are being fed patently false information by Muslims like Mogahed. Though I was cut short in class (and, for future reference, although I may be hugely tempted to say something (especially in the face of false information – especially touchy information grounded in religions) I have to think twice before I do). I am grateful I have an online space such as this where I can review false information (we will be reviewing the full presentations by Mogahed in a series) without the possibility of interference. I do, however, hope that this brief treatment has cleared up some of the confusion even though we have our differences of opinion.