As a child, I asked a poor gardener who lived in my neighbor’s garage with three sick children and an ailing wife how he managed to smile all the time. “My son, Allah is writing my story and I am an actor in His book. What greater satisfaction is there?”
I grew up in Iran, a Muslim country, where I experienced the true face of Islam- of faith, of surrender, and of peace.
During the revolution, I witnessed and heard numerous stories of Muslims who helped Jews, Christians and Bahais escape certain death.
We are now in the holy month of Ramadan, and I recall waking up to the beautiful, sweet and seductive call of Azan -- the Muslim call to prayer -- each morning during this month.
I grew up with sayings from Ali: “Beautiful people are not always good, but good people are always beautiful.” And “your sin is not greater than God’s mercy.”
And the poetry of my beloved Rumi keeps me warm even today.
Faced with Donald Trump’s declarations against Muslims, our world torn over accepting Syrian refugees, and the many radical Islamist terror attacks, most recently in Orlando, we are forced to take a stance on Islam, Muslims, and extremists.
Social media is filled with angry posts that call for an end to Islam. Many advocate that there is a problem in the faith that has led to this militant and viral extremism.
Some of you have come to hate everything Muslim. I've heard you whisper "kill them all." Others have become so politically correct that they fear even uttering the words Muslim or Islam (as if saying the "N" word) lest they insult someone. Some find a sense of purpose and a sick pleasure out of quoting verses of the Quran which appear satanic, without intimate knowledge of Islam. Still others who have never befriended, had dinner with, or dated a Muslim, lump them all with the topic of the day -- terrorism.
What are you to think? Do you act out of love or out of fear? Allow me to share a few thoughts:
1. There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.
It would serve you well to befriend a few and get to know them well.
2. Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the overall world population between 2010 and 2050...
...and will likely surpass Christians as the world’s largest religious group. So, if you are not Muslim, soon you will be the minority! Calling for an end to Islam is just foolish.
3. There are highly bothersome verses in the Bible...
...in both the Jewish Bible and the New Testament. Barbaric, even satanic verses can be pulled out of the pages of any "holy book."
4. The vast majority of Muslims are no different than the vast majority of Jews or Christians.
People are people when you get to know them.
5. The extremism that exists in Islam is currently harsher than any other...
...but the world's history has witnessed extremism from Christians (Crusades) as well as from secular ideologies such as Marxism or Hitler's genetic cleansing.
6. The average Muslim wants what we all want...
...life, love, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
7. Most Muslims are ashamed of terrorists and terrorism and extremism...
...and wish as do the rest of us to rid themselves of a connection with this hideous ideology. In fact, they have more to lose by the slanders of their holy book and prophets than the rest of us. Imagine celebrating the holy month of Ramadan while thugs are making a mockery of your prophet.
8. Ultimately, decent people will use an ideology or a religion to help others...
...while indecent people will abuse the ideology or the religion to hurt others.
9. When you don’t see Muslims speak up for you or against extremists, engage them, talk to them...
...but don’t attack them and build walls to lock out people who are potentially your most important allies.
10. How you react to Islam and Muslims, in the end, will say more about you than about the religion.
Rather than posting insults to Prophet Muhammad and pointing out problems to get a few likes on social media and high fives from non-Muslim friends, your efforts would do more good if you reached out and built bridges toward and befriended the decent Muslims who so much want your love.
As the wise Sufi teaching goes: Before you speak, ask yourself: "Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve the silence?”