I’ve travelled through Asia, Europe and North America. I’ve met people from a variety of different cultures. I ENJOY learning about the differences that separate us and the similarities that make us human. And even though I was raised in a Presbyterian family, I feel that if you believe in a different God or Entity, then you have every right to do so.
But lately, there has been something that has been bothering me. Despite my boasts about having a worldly point of view, I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around a certain subject. And that subject is Islam.
I just don’t get it.
Let me give you a current example. If you read CNN.com or pay attention to Human Rights Watch, you may have heard the story about the Christian Pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to hang for the crime of Apostasy. If you’re not familiar with Apostasy, it is basically giving up Islam for another religion and in this case, it is Christianity. If this is the type of punishment that Muslims give to each other for leaving their faith behind, then it pretty much guarantees that there won’t be a lot of defectors to a more benevolent religion. And if Islam is using this type of psychological control to keep the herd in control, then how can this be described as a religion? Sounds to me like more of a cult.
I realize that these are inflammatory statements and I would GLADLY like to be proven ignorant by someone who knows a lot more about religions that what I do. But don’t tell me that these punishments are handed down by extremists unless you are going to tell me that the whole nation of Iran is extreme. And don’t tell me that nobody dies from Apostasy anymore because even the threat of it is ridiculous to me. And if you tell me that Yousef knew what was going to happen and deserves his punishment, then we have nothing more to say to each other.
Why isn’t the whole country of Iran up in arms about this sentence? Why would they let this guy be condemned to death for his beliefs? Geez, in the United States we debate about whether we should execute criminals who go on a human shooting spree in a mall and take out twenty lives. I suppose it boils down to a degree of tolerance and it doesn’t seem like there is any with Islam.
Islam has been getting a lot of bad press lately and maybe outsiders shouldn’t even try to understand it. Maybe we should just accept that we can’t understand it and let it go. Or maybe (here’s a suggestion), the leaders of Islam in this country should do a much better job about educating Westerners about their beliefs. Right now, I bet if you ask a lot of Americans the difference between Muslims and terrorists, you’re going to get a lot of blank stares. And whose fault is that? The Muslim community, plain and simple. The outcry over the Islamic Center near the previous site of the twin towers reinforces how little Americans know about this religion. Americans fear what we don’t know and as a country, we sometimes know very little.
I hope the international community doesn’t forget about Yousef Nadarkhani. I realize that in every religion, there can be extremes of interpretation, but no one deserves to die for something as peaceful as a belief in a different God.
And on that issue, I definitely have a closed mind.