Can we get over our love of hate?
By Pete Haug
I learned about 9/11 about 3 p.m. the day it happened and tracked events as they unfolded. The news wasn’t pretty. It was a curious admixture of fact, speculation, and finger-pointing at Muslims. Much has changed in the last two decades, but hatred towards Muslims is alive and well.
Hatred has always existed, but it seems to be increasingly legitimized. Some politicians and media pundits encourage a love for hate, stoking a warfare mentality grounded in ignorance. Much of that hatred is directed against Muslims, to whom we are indebted for significant contributions to our Western civilization.
“We face a world where knowledge about the Quran must deal with militant misuses of it and blatantly distorted reports of what it says,” writes Garry Wills. “We must see how far terrorists have departed from the book they say they believe in.”
Wills is a Roman Catholic historian, New York Times columnist, and Pulitzer Prize winner. His book, “What the Qur’an Meant and Why It Matters,” appeared in 2017, years after decisions were made to send American troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. Wills’s rigorous intellect highlights features of the Quran and Islam that bear contemplation.
Another thinker, Pope Francis, wrote: “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”
Conflicts have battle cries
“Remember Pearl Harbor” was the World War II battle cry. For the World Trade Center, the cry has been “Remember 9/11.” Both contain an intrinsic wish for revenge.
When World War II ended, there was much talk of revenge against “The Axis.” Few could have imagined war-ravaged Europe creating the European Union, but wisdom prevailed. Governments established the United Nations. The Marshall Plan helped former enemies recover. Two of those, Japan and Germany, are now staunch allies amidst world leaders.
Islamic influence on civilization
Western civilization has been influenced immeasurably by Islam. For nearly a millennium Europe was mired in the “Dark Ages,” beginning with the fall of Rome and waning as the Italian Renaissance began. That Renaissance is seen as a “cultural bridge,” running from the 14th to the 17th century. Less recognized is the influence of Islam on that Renaissance. Many western scholars omit mention of Islamic influence; other scholars, both Muslims and Westerners, credit the burgeoning Islamic civilization that grew and thrived while Europe languished in the dark.
“Islamic knowledge, science and technological advancements had a pervasive influence on the European Renaissance,” one website observes. Military incursions into Hispania and Sicily in the 8th and 9th centuries initiated the influence, which increased during the Crusades and subsequent trade. “Europe benefited heavily from the Islamic Empire’s progressive thinking.”
Ancient classical texts, preserved and translated by Islamic scholars, inspired Renaissance thinkers. The “scientific method and modern university system…led to the Scientific Revolution,” as well as “medical and agricultural techniques that improved the quality of life…during the Renaissance.”
Some consider that period “the Golden Era of History.” Muslim scientists and intellectuals advanced “modern medicine, chemistry and algebra,” and more. “Islamic civilization…led Europe out of dark ages into the era of Enlightenment and gave rise to its Renaissance.”
A Mormon scholar observes, “much of Western thought can be traced to discoveries and developments from Islamic civilization, which gave the West its blueprint for university education and much of its science and philosophy curriculums…Those texts transformed Western science and ushered in a period of European dominance.”
A Quartz article states, “Western civilization as we know it wouldn’t exist without Islamic culture.” Indo-Arabic numerals (0-9) replaced Roman numerals during the Crusades and “revolutionized our capacity to engage in science and trade.” Civilization “is a continuing conversation and exchange,” wrote Richard Bulliet in “The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization.”
Baha’i writings supplement these views: Islam introduced “the conception of the nation as a unit and a vital stage in the organization of human society…This principle was established…inasmuch as the evolution of human society required it at that time…The conception of nationality, the attainment to the state of nationhood, may…be said to be the distinguishing characteristics of the Muḥammadan Dispensation…” The next stage, impossible during those earlier centuries, is the unification of the human race, nurtured by a belief system that advances civilization on the planet we all share for another millennium.
Narrow religious thinking nurtures suspicion and hate. It prevents followers from learning about, and from, each other. Islam began as a faith of peace, as did Christianity. Both embrace the Golden Rule. Both have wandered from founding principles. Christianity had its inquisitions and witch-burnings. Islam had similar atrocities, one of which occurred 20 years ago.
For our human family, turning from hate towards love isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Might we all try?
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