Musri 5-24-2012

My Word: Persecution in Iran doubly disturbing

Imam Musri(Orlando Sentinel, May 24, 2012)

By Imam Muhammad Musri

At the Holocaust Center in Maitland this past Sunday, representatives of Orlando’s Baha’i community described the persecution their fellow believers face in Iran, which is the birthplace of the Baha’i faith.

A similar travesty deals with the death sentence Iran’s Supreme Court has issued concerning Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. His crime? Leaving Islam as a teenager and converting to Christianity.

As a Muslim imam, I’m appalled and outraged. In fact, such actions and attitudes are doubly disturbing to me. Not only does my heart go out to the victims of such blatantly unjust and inhumane treatment. I’m also incensed that the perpetrators use my religion as their justification for such atrocities.

The religion I believe in, that I daily seek to live by, that I commend to others, is a religion of peace. The word “Islam” derives from the same Arabic root as the term generally used for peace: “Salam.” Islam is about peace.

One of the difficulties faith traditions face in interpreting their respective holy writings is that some adherents focus on only certain passages. Too often admonition that was given for specific and often unusual circumstances is universalized. As if that’s not bad enough, passages that are universally applicable are often ignored or downplayed.

In the Quran, some of the divine mandates are delivered in strident language, particularly when viewed from our modern perspective. However, these same holy writings promote peace, love, justice, mercy, freedom, service and other values that have played major roles in uplifting humanity and refining society.

The tragedy is that some fail to see the big picture and focus almost exclusively on the most strident, most extreme, most time-bound and place-bound scriptural commands. Such interpretations have resulted in religious wars, pogroms, persecution, discrimination, hatred, suspicion and other undesirable behavior.

Chapter 2 of the Quran clearly states that “there shall be no compulsion in religion.” Chapter 18 says: “This is the truth from your Lord; then let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve.”

I particularly like the Prophet Muhammad’s version of the Golden Rule: “None of you has faith unless you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” Regimes like the one in Iran need to grasp the deep spiritual significance of that statement.

Imam Muhammad Musri is president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida and a member of the advisory board of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.