no one can deny that islam is very much in the spotlight today. in spite of extremely negative portrayals by western media (or perhaps because of them), increasing numbers of people are seeking to find out more about it. and more often than not, they are being pleasantly surprised by the fruits of their research. in fact, more people are embracing
islam today than they did prior to september 11, 2001.
however, there does remain a great deal of misconception and misunderstanding on the subject, frequently fueled by political policies which deem it in their interest to support islam's enemies. in addition, muslims themselves, at first shocked and confused by the events of recent years, did not really know how to respond to the challenge. now they have been rudely awakened to the urgency of refuting the many false claims and accusations being spread against their way of life and of defending the truth, and accordingly, the rights and honor of muslims everywhere on earth.
islam is the religion and way of life of about one-fifth of the world's population. muslims are of diverse nationalities, cultures and races, but their religion teaches that all men are essentially equal and that no distinction should be made between them on the basis of such superficial differences as color, class status or personal beliefs as long as they remain peaceful and law-abiding citizens. the behavior of certain misguided groups or individuals outside the fold of mainstream islam cannot be attributed to the religion any more than violence in north ireland or mafia activities can be attributed to christianity.
people of secular cultures often fail to understand why practicing muslims cannot
always fit in completely with modern westernized lifestyles, why they insist upon a particular type of dress, or upon prayer at particular times. they tend to perceive muslim attitudes as unnecessarily demanding and uncompromising. misunderstandings are frequently due to unmistakable differences between the western concept of religion and that of muslims. islam can indeed seem strange to a society in which religion no longer plays a major role in everyday life; but to a dedicated muslim, islam is life, and there is no division between the secular and the sacred.
because religious practice occupies a narrow place in his outlook, the adherent to western culture often does not comprehend the relationship between a muslim and his religion or what motivates him to take a particular direction in life. but in the view of islam, religion is not merely a personal issue or something symbolic pertaining to a limited area of one's existence. on the contrary, it involves molding a balanced way of life suitable not only to muslims but to everyone who inclines toward peace, justice and respect for rights. more simply, it can be said to mean the pursuit of happiness, security and moral perfection. in the hearts of muslims their religion remains both a secure refuge and the most effective motivator for tackling all kinds of challenges. at the same time, it preserves the distinctive character of the muslim believer and the pattern of his particular culture.
an individual in the west might see religion within a limited context pertaining to worship alone - a private matter between a person and god. but in islam it is a dynamic system that organizes the progression of life according to basic general principles and flexible rulings that guarantee potential benefit from advancements in science and technology as well as new material facilities. since there is no conflict between islam and scientific research, every new discovery in the world of matter, energy, time and space only increases the believer in faith and humility towards him who devised, projected and systematized such a plan and then assigned to mankind his place and noble role within it. within this understanding it remains to be said that knowledgeable muslims are not in need of secularism since they have no problem with religion.
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