May 16, 2014

Apostacy, Blasphemy and Other Ugly Things

By Ayesha Richards

This week, the western world was in shock at yet another barbaric punishment from a Muslim country. Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who converted to Christianity, was sentenced to death by a Sudanese Shariah court. As a result, yet again I had to field countless questions and comments from my customers and colleagues at work. As a nurse, I suppose people know and trust me, and as the only Muslim woman in a busy private practice, I suppose I am the only guide to all things Islamic for many.

This week's questions were especially hard-hitting, however, and the comments were nasty. While I understand that they stem from ignorance, it still hurts me deeply to hear my faith, my beliefs, my prophet, even my God being insulted. So I decided to pen my condemnation once and for all. I know many will not believe me, but it is the truth.
  1. Islam is a religion of peace. It does not condone violence or terrorism, and in any fight civilians are to be protected at all costs. Concepts of holy war, attacking innocents or conducting suicide bombing is not taught by the Holy Quran or by the practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
  2. There are no punishments for apostasy or blasphemy prescribed by the Quran. Muslim countries that give out such horrific punishments are not following true Islamic teachings and are incorrect in calling their laws Shariah.
  3. Islam prescribes freedom for minorities, and warns Muslims against hurting mentally or physically the followers of other religions. We are supposed to live in harmony with these groups instead of fighting or persecuting them.
The question that arises, of course, is why some Muslims are indeed creating violence on the planet, why some Muslim countries have barbaric laws, and why many Muslims don't know about their own religion. I believe that these people are misguided, that just as many Christians and Jews don't follow the teachings of their scripture, so do these Muslims conveniently forget or chose to follow an extremist ideology. Hatred and bigotry can be used for political ends, and this is what we see as the objective of many extremist groups of all religious backgrounds. Their actions should not be used to judge an entire faith. After all, I don't judge Christianity on the basis of the actions and words of American politicians, or Buddhism on the acts of monks inciting violence against Muslims in Myanmar.
I know many will not believe me. They are the ones who have been indoctrinated by biased media and hate groups who are in the business of promoting intolerance. I am grateful that I am available at my clinic, my children's school and even my neighborhood to correct people's misconceptions about Islam. It hurts me that some tell me to my face that I am lying. I suppose they would rather believe a news anchorman than a nurse who they have known for years. All I can say is, we all need to learn more about each other, ask our neighbors and colleagues questions instead of believing the media.
Ayesha Richards is a registered nurse in a cardiology private practice in the Medical Center. She converted to Islam at the age of seventeen. She is married with three children. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.    

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