This first appeared on Patheos.
Time and again, the same illogical claims about Islam keep popping up from various people, whether they are pundits, commenters, or self-styled "experts" on Islam: Islam is "violent," it calls for the "killing of all non-Muslims," Muslims "must hate all non-Muslims," or that Islam is a religion of "domination," not of peace.
Add to this the litany of cultural horrors that some Muslims—but not only Muslims—practice, such as child marriages, female genital mutilation, and so-called "honor killings," and those horrible practices are unfairly projected upon Islam as well.
Of course, there are some Muslim extremists who believe in and do such things. But, those who hate Islam paint the entire faith with the sins of these extremists. There is no nuance, no sophistication to their analysis - whatever the terrorists do is "real Islam," and the actions of the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims is a ruse, or taqiyya (dissimulation).
Does no one else see this illogic? Think about it for a moment: If one were to judge the United States by the actions of its criminals, it would be easy to think that America is a truly terrible place, full of murderers, rapists, thieves and thugs. But, everyone knows and understands that America is not defined by the actions of its criminals.
The same is true with the misdeeds of American soldiers overseas. Whether it is those soldiers who urinated on Taliban corpses or the soldier who allegedly shot and killed dozens of civilians, including children, everyone knows (and says) that their actions do not reflect the reality of America and its people. And, this is completely true.
Extremism is not the norm
When it comes to Islam, however, no such logic prevails. The worst actions of the worst extremists are projected upon the whole of the faith. Think about this for a moment: If Islam were this horrific, barbaric faith that calls for the murder of all who are not Muslim, that calls for perpetual war against the whole world, that keeps people in its fold upon pain of death, that oppresses women as a matter of principle, would it have endured for 15 centuries?
Would Islam have stayed relevant for more than 1.5 billion people on this earth? Would it have been the source of strength and comfort for so many people if it were truly this violent ideology that calls for people to be "terrorists all the time"?
Some may claim that the military victories of the Islamic empire are the cause of the widespread presence of Islam all over the world. But the "Islamic empire," if there ever was one, did not last forever. It was overtaken by many a conqueror: the Mongols, the Ottomans and most recently the Europeans. Yet, Islam endured. If Islam was this "barbarian cult" that kept its adherents in the faith by fear of the sword, why wasn't there a mass exodus of Muslims from the faith when the Mongols nearly destroyed the Islamic caliphate?
There wasn't. In fact, the Mongol conquerors eventually accepted Islam themselves. Why wasn't there a mass exodus of Muslims (those who survived the massacres of the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099) from the faith when the crusaders came to the Holy Land? There wasn't. Islam endured. Why wasn't there a mass exodus of Muslims from the faith when the European colonizers came with their guns and steel (and missionaries)? There wasn't. Islam endured.
Would a "barbarian cult" of violence and war produce the writers, poets and philosophers of the Islamic world? Would a "barbarian cult" produce the beautiful architecture of southern Spain that stands to this day? Would a "barbarian cult" produce the poetry of Rumi, who is the best-selling poet in the United States for many years now? Would a "barbarian cult" preserve the writing of the ancient Greeks, writings that St. Thomas Aquinas used to formulate his philosophy?
Of course not.
Some claim that Al Qaeda is the "true face" of Islam, the reality of what Islam stands for. This is patently false. Muslims all over the world overwhelmingly have rejected the philosophy and tactics of Al Qaeda,because of Islam and its teachings. Osama bin Laden himself fretted over the brutality of Al Qaeda and its alienation of Muslims everywhere.
Some claim that the Arab Spring and the overthrow of regimes all across the Arab world are due to Al Qaeda. This is absolutely absurd. The popular uprisings all across the Arab world are a loud and clear rejection of Al Qaeda and its philosophy.
Why Islam has endured
Throughout its history, the Muslim majority world has faced many a crisis, both from within and without. Through all them, the Islamic faith has endured. Islam has endured as a source of comfort, strength, faith and spiritual renewal for more than a billion people. This is because of its message of peace and tolerance, love and brotherhood, faith and service, charity and altruism.
Yes, there are Muslim extremists who use Islam to justify their barbarism. Yes, there are some Muslims who do all the terrible things that people say "all Muslims" do. But, they are extremists, criminals and murderers. They do not represent the whole.
If you quote the Quran out of context, or misquote it, or quote some medieval text of Islamic jurisprudence, you can make Islam out to be the "cult of the devil." But it would no more represent the truth about Islam than pedophile priests represent the truth about the Catholic Church. It is an illogic of hatred. Would that more people see through this illogic and reject it.