Don’t Know Much About Islam, But….

If someone had ever told me I’d be writing defense of Islam, I would have thought they were nuts. I’m not against Islam. It’s simply foreign to me. In the years since 9/11, Islamic people and their culture have appeared more than I ever noticed before. It is not unusual to see women in Burkas in West Hartford, or Springfield, or Boston or any other place I might go these days. My wife teaches about — and understands — Islam enough to know whether I’m even using the correct word when I say “burka”. I have had Islamic students when I have taught psychology, but we haven’t talked about religion.

About the only things I can say definitively are: Muslims 1) bow to Mecca when they pray (sometimes); 2) They believe in the words of Mohammed; 3) They have some season where they fast; 4) They worship “Allah”, a different name for the deity Jews call “Yahweh” and English-speaking Christians call “God”. It is the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph”. There are two twin brothers in the Bible book of Genesis and one was clever and took the birthright of the other. The one that took the birthright is considered the historic father of Judaism and the one that lost it is considered the historic father of Islam, but it is the same God. 5) They have this thing called “Jihad” which is something to do with purification, but often gets translated in our press as “kill the enemies of Islam, especially the United States”.  I leave my near cluelessness as the the last on the list to show how the one good thing I know about Islam gets lost in the cloud of information/disinformation that is my experience of Islam.

That said,  I am pretty clear that not everyone who says they represent Islam actually does, just as I’m sure that not everyone who claims to represent Jesus does and not every representative of Judaism actually represents God’s will.

In this category of non-Islamic Muslims is Boko Haram, which the Huffington Post calls a “Nigerian Islamist militant group”. Abubakar Shekau, “the infamous head” of this group said “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah”. Apparently, the organization abducted 300 Nigerian girls   from their secondary school in Borno state on April 14, driving them off into the remote Sambisa forest. While some managed to escape, police said last week that 276 were still missing”, according to the Post.

I will agree that the Boko Haram is Nigerian and militant and a group. What I will not agree to is that there are Islamic or any other religion. They certainly don’t believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping —  frees people from slavery, whether that’s physical or emotional slavery. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping — doesn’t pick on children. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping — expects that — at the very least — their people pick on somebody their own size. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping — loves people and doesn’t choose to hurt them. That God — and, frankly, any God worth worshiping — knows bravery when they see it. Even a patriarchal God who loves men more than women (whom I don’t and won’t worship, by the way) wouldn’t call kidnapping girls in middle school a brave, glorious, or holy endeavor.

Since no sane religion would think the actions of Boko Haram were reasonable, then clearly Boko Haram cannot represent Mohammed or Islam.  As a Westerner, I have seen the insane side of Islam. Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and any number of America’s “enemies” have their version of Islam which I believe varies from the liberal or “mainline” version. But enough of them — liberal and conservative — believe they are “in the ballpark” of Islam that I can’t disagree. In short, then, there are lots of Muslims around the world, some of them are nut-jobs. My experience in America tells me that they are not the majority of Islamic folks, any more than the Inquisition is the epitome of all of Christianity.

Even Ayatollah Khomeini kidnapped adults who knew the situation had the potential for danger. Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron hand, but didn’t single out young girls — children — for punishment, to my knowledge. The PLO, when they took over the Olympic compound in Munich, didn’t pick on helpless, scared-out-of-their-wits school children.  These are the images of the worst of Islam ingrained in my head. Even they — the supposed worst of Islam, via the lens of Western foreigners — aren’t as ridiculous, evil, and full of cowardice as Boko Haram is in this situation. Call them what you want, but religious, or followers of God, or spiritual people they are not. I don’t know much about Islam, but I’m sure these people aren’t it.  Let’s not call them that. I’m pretty sure even Allah wouldn’t recognize them.




















The leader of vowed to sell hundreds of schoolgirls that were kidnapped in the north of the country two weeks ago, Agence France Press reports on Monday.

Abubakar Shekau, the infamous head of the Nigerian Islamist militant group, made the comments in a taped video message in which he also claimed responsibility for the mass abduction.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Shekau said, according to AFP.

Armed militants abducted more than 300 Nigerian girls from their secondary school in Borno


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