On February 13th, this column featured an article highlighting the BDSM of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” showing how it differs from the male subjugation of women that is practiced by ISIS. That article is called “Fifty Shades of Grey” and Islam. The article also showed how the brand of Islam practiced in America does not have the same perverted sense of love that exists within the ranks of ISIS. American Muslims are typically used to a softer, kinder love in their relationships.
Two Muslim men were interviewed for that article. One was Shaykh Osman Umarji and the other was Nader Nasr. Both are practicing Muslims who believe in an active Muslim community in America. Shaykh Osman believes in a loving God, and he reflects his love for God in his relationships. Nasr also believes in an Islam of love, and that is something extremist groups like ISIS cannot offer. He mentioned that he believes the best way to combat extremists is to develop strong local communities that can offer guidance to young people who might be at risk of joining a terrorist group.
Coincidentally, President Obama’s article about combating extremism via the cooperation of local communities appeared in the LA Times on the 17th. He wrote that his three day White House summit will focus on “empowering local communities” to combat extremist ideologies. He explained his reasoning by writing, “We know from experience that the best way to protect people, especially young people, from falling into the grip of violent extremists is the support of their family, friends, teachers and faith leaders. “
Vice President Biden opened the summit on Tuesday by noting that America does make mistakes. However, he also added: “But we have a lot of experience integrating communities into the American system, the American dream.”
Today, President Obama challenged Muslim leaders to battle extremism with their voices. He said, “Just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam.” The threat of extremism is global, and President Obama has asked that the voices of peaceful Muslims resound throughout the world. Islam can survive in places like the U.S, and the voices of Muslims thriving in the West is a narrative that can combat extremists.
Shaykh Osman of Orange County is one of those Muslim leaders that is thriving in America. He is clear that Islam is a religion based on love. The truest love within the faith is the love a Muslim has for God. That love is reflected onto a Muslim’s local surroundings. For instance, this love can be reflected onto a Muslim’s family. He describes an Islamic marriage as a coming together of two families. That merging will have “minor inconveniences” but it is necessary because it “builds trust.” This delicate situation is handled out of love for God and family. That same attitude of families coming together to build trust and love can also be applied to a local community. Shaykh Osman is very active in the advancement of Sunday school for Muslims in his locale. At Sunday school, he encourages the kids to eat together, socialize, and play together. Islam isn’t just about memorization and facts. It is also learning how to engage with other Muslims, as well as others in the community, in order to reflect God’s love through good works.
Nasr also believes that the love found in Islam must be used to help families and local communities. That is because hateful actions trickle down through the generations. This can result in discord for families as well as discord for local communities. Children will rebel against neglectful or difficult parents by acting out. This dysfunctional family dynamic can be passed on for generations. The same can be said of actions committed by Muslims outside of a family. If one Muslim murders someone else, the pain of that murder will trickle down through the generations of the victim’s family. Hatred and pain is not what Muslims should be passing down through the generations or spreading in a community. It is love that Muslims should be spreading, and this is how the distorted message of extremists is best countered.
President Obama and Vice President Biden have called on Muslims to integrate into their local communities and speak out against extremist rhetoric that America and other nations are trying to “suppress Islam.” There are Muslims who are doing this, and they are working to counter extremism through local involvement in their communities.