Something I find so refreshing about Islam is our respect for the beliefs of other people. Despite the media’s attempts to paint us all as radical enforcers of Sharia law, we are generally a very easygoing bunch. While there is a passion for sharing our faith, I have never found it to be forceful or unnecessary. In most cases, I believe most Muslims keep to themselves, focusing more on their own faith (or that of fellow Muslims) than the faith of a non-Muslim. On the contrary, growing up in the Christian church, the act of witnessing to people whether they welcomed it or not was highly encouraged. Witnessing activities played a big role in the youth group I attended and I remember inwardly cringing as I tried to participate as little as possible. It wasn’t the act of telling people about God or doing good for the community, it was the pushiness that this particular church acted with that didn’t align with something inside of me. It didn’t feel right. I could almost read the thoughts going through people’s heads as they were bombarded with more information than they had asked for. I’m positive they had heard it all before and were simply trying to be polite. Aggressively sharing one’s beliefs is often more intimidating than effective and I find that it pushes more people away than it draws in. So I found it quite the relief when I learned that this is not a common practice in most Muslim communities. I saw instead an influence on charity and doing good in the community. We are to live our lives as if we were billboards for our faith. This is not to say that all Muslims are perfect and have never forced their faith on anyone. Like in every belief system, there are radicals with a misguided view of their religion and what is right. Let’s get one thing straight, radical Islam is not Islam. A radical Muslim is someone who has taken the sacred words of the Holy Quran and twisted them to fit their own evil narrative. Just as neo-Nazis and white supremacists twist the words of the Bible and everyone else to suit their agenda. This is also not to point fingers at all Christians as being the way I’ve described above. My family attended a particularly proactive evangelical church that often times put their own agenda ahead of the needs of others. This does not represent true Christian values as found in the New Testament of the Bible. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many Christians who hold the same values. There are so many good, kind-hearted people in these communities who truly want to help others and they are the ones who make the biggest impact.
I believe we can all learn from this. If you want to make a difference and spread a message that you deem is important, lead by example. You won’t accomplish anything if you intimidate, harass, disregard boundaries, or even try to bring up your religion every time you speak with someone. We must respect what other people choose to believe. We don’t have to agree with it but must allow them to live how they see fit (as long as it does not cause harm to anyone). The best way to show them the truth is to let them see you thrive and be a good person because of that truth. Words mean nothing to anyone. We’ve all heard people make claims but to see someone’s actions that make them stand out in a good way really drives the message further. In my own life, I am surrounded by non-Muslims of all different backgrounds which presents a wonderful opportunity to impact their lives in a positive way, alhumdulillah. If I live the way I should, these people can look at me and see a positive example of Islam, insha’Allah, and I may be the only real Muslim they’ll ever interact with. This is a necessity here in the US because most people only associate us with 9/11, the news, or TV shows that depict us as radical jihadists. In other words, they really don’t know us or what we stand for at all. We have to be willing to learn and be more understanding of those who are different than us. These differences should not pit us against each other so violently. We don’t have to all be the same, but there are some value that we all hold in common and if we want to spread those values, we must be united. At the end of the day, we are all more alike than we realize and we should treat everyone the way we would like to be treated. It’s the golden rule and it is more necessary now than ever before.