Prejudice is like poison. Unless purged out of one’s mind in early stages, it can spread like cancer and make one incapable of differentiating between right and wrong. Of the many kinds of prejudice, the worst is to believe that one’s own religion is superior to all others, which may be tolerated but never taken seriously or accepted as equally valid as one’s own.
The most misunderstood of the major religions today is Islam, which, after Christianity, is the second most widely practised religion in the world. It also gains more converts than any of the other religions. Prejudice against Islam was spread in Christendom from the time Muslims gained dominance in the Middle East, North Africa and Spain.
Christian crusaders failed in their missions to crush Islam in its homeland but continued to vilify its founder, Mohammed. The emergence of militant Islamic groups like al-Qaida and taliban gave them reasons to do so. The attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001 provided fresh ammunition to vilifiers of Islam.
Since then Islamophobia has been deliberately spread throughout the non-Muslim world.
The two principle contentions of the anti-Islamists are that Islam was spread by the sword and that its founder-prophet was not the paragon of virtue that Muslims make him out to be. It can be proved by historical evidence that Islam was not forced upon the people; it was readily accepted by millions because it offered them new values, principally equality of mankind and rights to women that were unheard of in those times. In countries like Indonesia and Malayasia, Islam was not forced on the population by Muslim invaders but by Muslim missionaries.
Muslims are extremely sensitive to criticism of their Prophet. A popular adage in Persian is: ba khuda diwaana basho, ba Mohammed hoshiar! — “say what you like about God, but beware of what you say about Mohammed.” They regard him as the most perfect man who ever trod upon the earth, a successor of Adam, Moses, Noah, Abraham and Christ. He was the last of the prophets.
If you honestly want to know how Muslims see him, you ought to take a good look at his life and teachings, which he claimed had been revealed to him by God. It would be as wrong to judge him by the doings of al-Qaida and taliban or by the fatwas periodically pronounced by Ayatollahs and half-baked mullahs. You do not judge Hinduism of the Vedas and Upanishads by the doings of Hindus who, in the name of Hindutva, destroy mosques, murder missionaries and nuns, vandalize libraries and works of art. You do not judge the teachings of the Sikh gurus by the utterances of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and by the murder of innocents by his hooligans. Likewise, judge Mohammed by what he taught and stood for and not by what his so-called followers do in his name.
To make a beginning in clearing your mind of anti-Muslim prejudices, I suggest you read Karen Armstrong’s Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time. Armstrong is the leading writer on comparative religions today. She is not Muslim.
From Khushwant Singh's article in The Telegraph.To read the full article click here