Violence of ISIS not representative of Muslims

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Illustration by Leah Nash/The Cougar

In Iraq and Syria, the terrorist organization ISIS is carving out its domain with cruelty and terrorism. Journalists David Foley, Kenji Goto and Steven Sotloff and humanitarian aid workers Alan Henning, David Haines and Kayla Mueller were all beheaded in acts of brutality and belligerence; Muath al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian pilot, was burned alive in a cage. And most recently, 21 Christians were beheaded. Their deaths were recorded in a video entitled “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross.”

Members of ISIS are mentally ill, vicious, sadistic men and women who will likely burn in hell. But out of the approximately 1.6 billion Muslim people in the world, violent extremists such as those in ISIS are a minority.

All this to say that the current events involving extremists in the Middle East have nothing to do with Islam. The events and the resulting false perception of Muslims are caused by violence — something that is ingrained in the primal instincts of humanity, not within religion.

Calling for a change

In a CNN interview, Egyptian author Tawfik Hamid said although violence is found in other religions, these other religions have been reformed, whereas Islam has not. Arsalan Iftikhar, an international human rights lawyer, responded by saying every Muslim organization in America “has condemned ISIS in public statements.”

“If anyone slew a person, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”

-Qu’ran 5:32

“We stand on street corners with bullhorns for the rest of our lives and we condemn terrorism, but for some people it’s never enough,” Iftikhar said. “They’re going to only focus on the minuscule extremist minority and conflate that to represent all 1.6 billion Muslims.”

Education of the uniformed and conversation with those willing to listen are the available actions since reformation has already taken place. Non-Muslims and the media continuously call upon the people of Islam to condemn this violence, as if Muslims are responsible for acts of terrorism.

According to Business Insider, esteemed members of the global Muslim community wrote a letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, rebuking his interpretation of Islam by saying it is “forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.”

Yet it remains that many non-Muslims believe Muslims are like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, as if the religion is defined by violence, and even supports such acts.

Executive director of UH’s Gulen Institute Dogan Koc said “having (violence) as a religious establishment… will not continue for a long time.” Koc said a religion that is inherently violent will not survive.

People can buck against this idea, but the fact of the matter is that at the spiritual core of any religion is a desire for peace and the means to work towards harmony.

Religion and history

“If you were someone living in the 12th century or 13th century, you would say the same thing for the crusaders, for the Catholics, ” Koc said.

“Crusaders looted churches (in Byzantium). Christian crusaders looted churches because it was an Eastern church. You will see mosaics of Jesus, and some of them were taken (by crusaders) because they were gold.”

The Crusades are but one example of the violent acts that have been undertaken in the name of Christianity. Religious studies professor Christian Eberhart said a lot of conquering and genocides have taken place by Christians.

“The colonial period… that was basically Western Christianity, they started to conquer the rest of the world,” Eberhart said. “This continent was born out of two genocides. The ones who committed these genocides, against the Native American population and African-Americans, were usually Christians.”

Non-Muslim commentators have said these historical events are ancient history and therefore not applicable to the conversation. Christianity isn’t considered a violent religion because those events occurred in a more barbaric time.

One day the terrorist acts of ISIS will be ancient history. If history doesn’t matter when one is talking about Christianity, then it technically shouldn’t matter when one is talking about Islam.

Islam is not a violent religion; if it were, then so would be every other religion known to man — as well as almost any ideology.

Who is the bad guy?

Proximity to recent events is the true instigator of anti-Muslim perception.

“Usually there is a certain group … that didn’t have good (public) perception. I have a friend who told me, ‘Until a new group will come, Muslims will be the bad guys,’” Koc said. “Before Muslims it was the Soviets … then you have Asians and Germans … so usually you have an identifiable certain group that does not have a good perception in the general population.”

Anger can arise at the thought of bigotry and ignorance. Yet the people of Islam continue to work on focusing their energies on acts to promote peace.

Teaching and learning junior Wajiha Jawed, who is the walkathon manager for the UH Muslim Student Association, said that Islam, like any religion, “is a way of life that encourages people to become the best versions of themselves.”

Eberhart said a study was done recently in which participants were asked if they were afraid of Islam and of Muslim people. The result of the study was that the majority of participants did feel fear or discomfort towards Islam.

“A secondary finding is that the discomfort was articulated mostly in areas where people had pretty much no contact with Muslims and didn’t know anything about Muslims,” Eberhart said. “It was the least articulated in areas where people knew Muslims and had contact with Muslims.”

Koc said he has “hope for the future,” and said when more intimate interactions between Western Christians and Muslims happen, “you will see better perception.”

Religions are based upon peace. All acts of violence and negativity stem from the raw egoism of humanity.

In Matthew 5:39 of the Bible, Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

“The last prophet of Islam Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was even kind to people who treated him terribly,” Jawed said.

Spirituality works on the side of good and justice; don’t turn your hearts away from those who love peace, regardless of your ideology.

Opinion columnist Henry Sturm is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected].


  • I get it. When Mohammed raped, tortured and murdered he was not being a true Muslim. Do I have that right?

    A beheading in Woolwich, a suicide bomb in Beijing, a blown-up marathon in
    Boston, a shooting in the head of a young Pakistani girl seeking education, a
    destroyed shopping mall in Nairobi – and so it continues, in the name of Islam,
    from south London to Timbuktu. It is time to take stock, especially on the
    left, since these things are part of the world’s daily round.

    Leave aside the parrot-cry of “Islamophobia” for a moment. I will return to it.
    Leave aside, too, the pretences that it is all beyond comprehension.
    “Progressives” might ask instead: what do Kabul, Karachi, Kashmir, Kunming and
    a Kansas airport have in common? Is it that they all begin with “K”? Yes. But
    all of them have been sites of recent Islamist or, in the case of Kansas, of
    wannabe-Islamist, attacks; at Wichita Airport planned by a Muslim convert ready
    to blow himself up, and others, “in support of al-Qaeda in the Arabian
    Peninsula”. “We cannot stop lone wolves,” a British counterterrorism expert
    told us after Woolwich. Are they “lone”? Of course not.

    A gas facility in southern Algeria, a hospital in Yemen, an Egyptian police
    convoy in the Sinai – it’s complex all right – a New Year’s party in the
    southern Philippines, a railway station in the Caucasus, a bus terminal in
    Nigeria’s capital, and on and on, have all been hit by jihadis, with hostages
    taken, suicide belts detonated, cars and trucks exploded, and bodies blown to
    bits. And Flight MH370? Perhaps. In other places – in Red Square and Times
    Square, in Jakarta and New Delhi, in Amman and who-knows-where in Britain –
    attacks have been thwarted. But in 2013 some 18 countries got it in the
    neck (so to speak) from Islam’s holy warriors….

    • Note to others: The true source of these words in this comment are from David Selbourne, an upper class citizen of Great Britain (nothing wrong with that, but just take it into account).

      If you are going to copy and paste someone else’s words, at least put your source down. This is plagiarism.

      Don’t be so brainwashed, think for yourself.

      • Whose words are these? They’re not mine, but the message is.


        Islam is indeed a crime against humanity, and its first victims are Muslims. I think that is why Muslims are so quick and ready to assume victimhood. On a subconscious level, they feel victimized, but in their search for the cause of their discomfort they incorrectly identify colonialism, crusades, Jews, racism, and so forth as the cause.

        For a Muslim to face up to the reality of Islam and to admit to oneself that Islam is the problem means to lose one’s identity. Hence the cognitive dissonance Muslims experience when Islam is called into question. Hence the scrambling for excuses and explanations that can convince the Muslims themselves that Islam is not the problem. And the explanations tend to be colonialism, crusades, Jews, racism, and so forth.

        When cultural Muslims refer to spurious arguments by Islamic apologists as a counterargument to brush aside direct quotes from the Qur’an and the hadiths, it is not that they are deliberately trying to deceive the non-Muslims. They are desperately clinging to the hope that Islam is not the problem. When they repeat the talking points of Islamic apologists explaining how Islam is a
        religion of peace, their primary aim is to convince (delude) themselves and make the cognitive dissonance go away at least momentarily, which then removes the immediate threat to their identity and postpones the inevitable confrontation.

        Unlike most of the Muslim world, Turkey is a country where, thanks to militantly secularist strains, there are more Muslims who are not completely enslaved by their Muslim identity. That gives slightly more breathing space for the individual to break the chains of Islam. Nonetheless, it still means you have to turn your back on large parts of your cultural heritage and family. Families in any culture have members who seek to enforce tradition. In Muslim
        cultures the conservative members of the family are enforcers of Muslim identity, which brings along with it the whole can of worms that is the Qur’an and the hadiths.

    • Dear ‘Arafat’/’dontbefooled’,
      You seem like the type of person who doesn’t read the contents of an article and rushes to the comments section to peddle their paragraph.
      If you did read the article, and were aware of the abundance of activities going on in the muslim world (and even on campus at places like the PGH Breezway), the billion and a half strong muslim community around the world is going hoarse condemning misguided militant groups that are trying to hijack their image. The biggest victims of these groups are in fact the same muslim community.
      The sad truth is that your attempts to marginalize a community are very much in sync with the agenda of the militant groups like ISIS that the rest of us abhor.

      • Comparing me ISIS is offensive as well as profoundly stupid.


        “…the billion and a half strong muslim community around the world is going hoarse condemning misguided militant groups that are trying to hijack their image.”
        Is this the same billion + Muslims who elect political despots and/or theocratic despots?
        Tell me about a Muslim country where repression and cruelty do not rule the day. If the billion + Muslims are so concerned about righting wrongs then why are their countries all wrong?
        Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Turkistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Niger, Nigeria, Qatar, etc…

        • You can counter all of these events that you complain of with similar events in america/europe. School bombings/shootings/stabbings 90% of the time by white kids in america, plus regular shootings, and crazy serial killers, etc… etc. The police in america are still murdering the minorities and the government is still using them for medical experiments without their will. Our militarty is still plundering into other countries, and murdering innocent people in the name of Oil Money.

          We still have our crazy christian church folks, so it’s only natural that the world has some crazy muslims too. Did you know that about 1/3 of the north american religious population is muslim. WOW! That means that 1 of every 3 religious people you meet will be muslim. How on earth is our country surviving? *sarcasm*

          If a christian guy goes on a murdering spree, christians are fortunate enough that people tend to know more about living near christians so as to not condemn all christian folk. the only reason you are condeming muslims is because clearly you don’t know any muslim people, or what they do in their daily lives, or anything about the religion. Islam and Christianity are 95% THE SAME. They are the same thing, with the same teachings, similar stories, and the same profits. And Islam actually recognize chrisitianity and judaism as equal religions.The holidays are the same as christian ones just a little different or at different times of the year. Muslims have their 5 pillars and that is basically the only large difference you will find give or take.

          If we’re in houston, and go to uofh, the most diverse city in america, and the most diverse school in america, don’t you think we have a high population of muslim students? If you say no i think you might be blind or ignorant. I guarantee you at least 1/5 of the schools population is muslim, even people you don’t think are muslim might be muslim. Yet, we have never had school shootings/bombings/threats/etc. by even one student (or muslim student) on campus. UT and A&m have, and they were of course by the usual suspect, non-muslim caucasians.

          TBH, Christians tend to be the real bigots. Havent you seen the crazy church folks on campus telling everyone they are going to hell? I have never seen muslims condeming others on campus for not following their beliefs. I don’t expect every white kid i meet to shoot up my school, every muslim i meet to blow up my car, or every black kid i meet to steal my cell phone. Those are stereotypes and people need to stop feeding into them.

          • Bringing other religions down to the level of Islam is one of the most popular strategies of Muslim apologists when confronted with the spectacle of Islamic violence. Remember Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber? How about Anders Breivik, the Norwegian killer? Why pick on Islam if other religions have the same problems?

            The Truth:

            Because they don’t.

            Regardless of what his birth certificate may or may not have said, Timothy McVeigh was not a religious man (in fact, he stated explicitly that he was agnostic and that “science” was his religion). At no time did he credit his deeds to religion, quote Bible verses, or claim that he killed for Jesus. His motives are very well documented through interviews and research. God is never mentioned.

            The so-called “members of other faiths” alluded to by Muslims are nearly always just nominal members who have no active involvement. They are neither inspired by, nor do they credit religion as Muslim terrorists do – and this is what makes it a very different matter.

            Islam is associated with Islamic terrorism because that is the association that the terrorists themselves choose to make.

            Muslims who compare crime committed by people who happen to be nominal members of other religions to religious terror committed explicitly in the name of Islam are comparing apples to oranges.

            Yes, some of the abortion clinic bombers were religious (as Muslims enjoy pointing out), but consider the scope of the problem. There have been six deadly attacks over a 36 year period in the U.S. Eight people died. This is an average of one death every 4.5 years.

            By contrast, Islamic terrorists staged nearly ten thousand deadly attacks in just the six years following September 11th, 2001. If one goes back to 1971, when Muslim armies in Bangladesh began the mass slaughter of Hindus, through the years of Jihad in the Sudan, Kashmir and Algeria, and the present-day Sunni-Shia violence in Iraq, the number of innocents killed in the name of Islam probably exceeds five million over this same period.

            Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 innocents in a lone rampage on July 22nd, 2011, was originally misidentified as a “Christian fundamentalist” by the police. In fact, the killings were later determined to be politically motivated. He also left behind a detailed 1500 page manifesto in which he stated that he is not religious, does not know if God exists, and prefers a secular state to a theocracy. Needless to say, he does not quote any Bible verses in support of his killing spree, nor did he shout “praise the Lord” as he picked people off.

            In the last ten years, there have been perhaps a dozen or so religiously-inspired killings by people of all other faiths combined. No other religion produces the killing sprees that Islam does nearly every day of the year. Neither do they have verses in their holy texts that arguably support it. Nor do they have large groups across the globe dedicated to the mass murder of people who worship a different god, as the broader community of believers struggles with ambivalence and tolerance for a radical clergy that supports the terror.

            Muslims may like to pretend that other religions are just as subject to “misinterpretation” as is their “perfect” one, but the reality speaks of something far worse.

      • Growing hoarse? Where? I do not see any Muslims denouncing the acts of ISIS. Nor do I see any Muslim denouncing the acts of ANY terrorist organization. Instead, I see them with tape over their mouths because they KNOW that what these groups are doing are doing exactly WHAT Allah has commanded them to do. Kill. Subdue the world for Allah. While i do agree with you that Muslims ARE the victim—I should at least clarify for you why they are the victim. Muslims are the victims of an evil ideology that stands out from the rest of the world on a false platform shouting “peace and tolerance” while the actions speak otherwise. Muslims are the victims because they are brainwashed from birth into believing it’s ok to murder, rape, oppress women, and loot other people’s stuff. Muslims are the victims because they do not KNOW the Father—that being who is God—not Allah. Allah is the Devil. And his number one attribute is to deceive. And he’s done a damn good job of deceiving billions. That is a victim. Your playing the victim card just shows and rather, proves my point—-ISIS is Islam–they read the SAME Quran you do, and read the same hadiths you do and if you deny that, then you are on your first step in becoming an apostate. Good job! Come to Jesus where there is truth and light!

  • The Crusades were over 800+ years ago. For those who don’t understand or appreciate how long ago that was, it was waaaay before the Gamecube was invented so that’s older than most of you who read this paper/website . . . just by a little bit (sarcasm).

    Christianity has moved past the Crusades and the Inquisition; unfortunately, Islam has not moved past medieval times. I guess that’s expected though seeing that the Muslim world really hasn’t advanced all that much over the past 1,000 years.

  • „violent extremists such as those in ISIS are a minority“

    How much longer do we have to hear this?

    Even if this ‘small minority’ would only be 1%, we would still have a ‘minority’ of 16,000,000 „violent extremists such as those in ISIS“

    As expected, quran 5:32 is recited here. The next verse speaks a complete different language

    Quran 5:33. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is:
    execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;

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