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I consider myself fortunate to have a small voice on the radio and the little time I’m on the air, I’m very careful of what I say. I check every claim, motion, complaint and I review and seek more information if I have doubts of the subject. As my aunt who raised me used to say: one is master of what you don’t say and a slave of what you say.
This weekend, a person who has a program on the radio, whom I do not know or have heard of, made unfortunate comments about the killings in Nice and Muslims. I include screenshots (in Spanish) of what transpired on Facebook that have flooded local (Puerto Rico) social media and newspaper articles NotiCel , El Nuevo Día , El Vocero and Primera Hora on the subject.
Because of this, it is my obligation to write a few lines about the Islam I know. Before starting to understand the Salafists and Islamists, we must understand where Islam comes from and the division between Sunni and Shi’a.
Islam begins, according to the canon, with an angel visiting a caravan leader named Muhammad, born in Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia, and revealing the Quran. Muhammad was known as a fair and good man of the Quaresh tribe. These revelations begin in 610 CE and continued during the life of Muhammad. In 622, Muhammad and his followers flee to Medina in what is known as the Hejira, or beginning of the Muslim era. In 630, Muhammad returned triumphantly to Mecca and destroys all the false idols there. In 632, Muhammad died without designating a successor and while Ali, his cousin and husband of Fatima, the favorite daughter of the prophet prepared his body for burial, the leaders of the Arab tribes chose their Caliph (Khilafa) or leader on earth. Many Arabs understand that the leader should have been Ali, who became the fourth caliph, before being murdered. This feud over who would be the Caliph culminates in the Battle of Karbala (Iraq today) where the son and grandson of Ali, Hussein and Abdullah are surprised by an army of the Caliph and their bodies left to rot for 40 days. This was the beginning of the great schism between Sunni Islam (followers of the Arab tradition of leading by consensus) and Shi’a, followers of Ali. See here and here .
This division of the Muslim world is still important. Saudi Arabia, followers of a conservative version of Sunni (Wahhabi) and Iran whose majority is Shi’a Iran, fight for supremacy in Bahran (Shi’a majority but Sunni rulers), Yemen, Lebanon (Hezbollah is a Shi’a movement, the rest are Sunni), Syria (majority Sunni and Alawite ruler which is a type of Shi’a). It is important that where the most important oil wells in Saudi Arabia are is in the East, where the Shi’a minority is, which is not considered Muslim by many in the government.
When Christianity forgot its scientific traditions, Arabs bought all the books and manuscripts they could find and translated them into Arabic. They invented algebra and brought from India the ill named Arabic numerals. They preserved the wisdom of ancient Greece and from there, the Spanish Arabs reintroduced it to Europe. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Muslims who preserved these works and expanded on them.
Muslims have 5 basic principles: Submission to God (Allah is the name of God in Arabic, just as Yaweh is his name in Hebrew), prayer five times a day (before praying they must be clean and purified, so they are by not means dirty), the zakat, which is helping and giving alms to the poor, daytime fasting during the month of Ramadan and visiting Mecca, if they have the means, at least once in their lifetime.
We have to understand that Muhammad was a religious, military and political leader. Islam does not have the separation of Cesar and God found in Mark 12:17. The Koran governs the division of spoils equally, provided in the seventh century inheritance rights to women that there was in Europe for many centuries and generally regulating the lives of people more in a better way than Europe at that time.
Why then there Isis and other groups that seem to want to destroy us? First, they do not want to destroy us, they want to destroy our way of life and convert us to Islam, at all costs. Those with that agenda are the Salafists and Islamists, but they are not the same. The Salafist wants to return Islam to the seventh century. Among these groups is Isis and the original Taliban. Islamists want to cleanse and modernize Islam. They want to achieve political power peacefully. A good example is the Muslim Brotherhood which was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan Al Bana.
To understand their influence in the world, see Oliver Roy, The Failure of Political Islam; Secularism Confronts Islam and The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West by Giles Kepel.
In the center of the controversy is the concept of jihad, which can be interpreted as an internal conflict of the human being between his desire to sin and to be virtuous or holy war against unbelievers, but even this has to be a just war see, here , here and here .
The vast majority of Muslims are not Islamists or Salafists. They want what we all want, earn a living and see their children grow. In fact, Muslims are the most frequent victims of attacks by Isis and similar groups.
In PR there is a Muslim community, hard – working, good people who would be incapable of actions like those of Isis. They are our neighbors, colleagues and some have businesses that advertise on your stations.
Yes, Islam has problems with violence, see Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali , but condemning the believers by a handful of fanatics is wrong and if one is a believer, it is a cardinal sin.
We must eliminate the followers of Isis and company but not all Muslims.
They suffer even more than we do when their faith is twisted by these groups.