Remaining Open to an Honest View of Islam

by Dorothy Fuchs, SND on February 10, 2015

in Blogs

While traveling in Israel in 2007 I rode a camel for a short distance.  I asked the name of the camel and also of the young man who took care of the camel.  Both names sounded like a form of peace.   I looked up the Arabic meaning for Saleem,  the name of the camel.  The meaning of the name is secure;  safe;  peaceful.

While there I often heard our Christian Arab tour guide exchange greetings with many other men, such as the Moslem bus driver, and those attending checkpoints.  The greeting was often “Salamu alaykum”, meaning “peace be upon you.”   I have thought of those names and greeting many times as I have listened to the actions of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) or Boko Haram, and of people’s reactions to the terrorist attacks. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that because some extremist groups such as ISIS seem to have no moral compass, that this is true of all followers of Islam.

In December, 2014 Pope Francis spoke about this stereotype, and warned that it is wrong to be “enraged against Islam” when we learn of the activities of these extremist groups.  Pope Francis said all religions have a little group of fundamentalists.  Christians have their share of fundamentalists, but this does not mean all Christians are fundamentalist. Pope Francis called for inter-religious dialogue and action against poverty to help end the conflicts in the region.   The pope said that ending poverty was crucial, partly because it gave rise to the recruitment of terrorists.

Certainly this has been true in Yemen and Afghanistan, both very poor countries. Yemen does not share in the oil wealth of the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.   It is to Yemen that Osama bin-Laden went to export his brand of terrorism, taking with him his inherited Saudi wealth, and pouring money into the inculcation, training and arming of  militant followers.

A similar development took place in Afghanistan, a country reeling from years of Soviet domination, and left with little hope in the dry and barren hillsides. For the present, governments are working to stop the unjust and atrocious attacks by radical militants.  Will this be followed by any strategies to address the root causes of the rise of such extremist groups?

Among the 99 names or attributes of Allah,  found in the Qu’ran, are such names:   All Merciful;  Peace and Blessing;  The Ever Forgiving;  The Utterly Just;  The Subtly Kind;   The All Forgiving;   The Responsive One.  These are not the names or attributes of a God who would endorse such atrocities as the burning of the Jordanian pilot.

What is your image of Islam?   What do we hear in our conversations about what people think of Islam?   Can each of us be a force to promote respectful religious dialogue?  Have we prayed for the perpetrators of extremist violence, and their victims?   The challenges are great, but the All Powerful God can and will answer our pleas.

Dorothy Fuchs, SND,  was a high school teacher for twenty-nine years.  When teaching World Culture, religion and U.S. History  Sr. Dorothy tried to give her students the sense of the inherent dignity of people of all cultures, the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate events in history, and the realization of the  gifts of our Catholic faith, a faith that teaches that all people are children of God.  For fourteen years Sister Dorothy was a pastoral minister. For twelve if those years Sister served on the staff of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, where as staff liaison to the Social Concerns Committee she worked with the committee to promote awareness of current social justice issues.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sr. Susan Kusz February 11, 2015 at 9:08 am

Dorothy, thank you! Well said.


Lisa Novak February 11, 2015 at 9:14 am

Excellent reflection, Dorothy, and very timely. Thanks so much!


Leave a Comment