We’ve just returned from a remarkable trip to Morocco, and the experience was beyond anything I had imagined. During the journey, as I often do, I wrote a blog piece about my travels. This piece reflected a positive experience in an Islamic country immersed in the Islamic Religion and steeped in unfamiliar traditions. As someone raised in a predominantly Christian country and having lived in the era of terror activities mischaracterized as inspired by Islam, I wondered what my impression of Islam and a majority Islamic culture would be.
It was enlightening, enjoyable, and reinforced my long-held belief that the majority of Muslims, like the majority of most people, seek nothing more than to live in peace and enjoy their lives. Islam, like all religions, has often been twisted by those who seek to dominate others through abuse of power and by exploiting the uneducated.
Religion has, throughout history, often been a tool used to control those unsophisticated enough to see the true meaning behind the carefully selected words taken from the Bible or the Quran. Words chosen to incite rage, rejection of others, and recourse to violent suppression or invasion.
In the United States, where our embracing education, understanding, and tolerance are often clouded by nationalistic tendencies and simple, unrefined analysis, many people cannot separate themselves from their religion and see the similarities with other faiths, only the differences. Geography has more to do with one’s faith than any exclusive validity of the doctrine. By the accident of birth, we are raised in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jainism, or the other thousands of religions or sects.
To borrow the title of an Arthur C. Clark book, there are Nine Billion Names of God, and each is as valid as the next. It is never the religion to blame for things done in its name. The fault lies with those who purport to speak to their God, who twist the words of their sacred texts, who turns them to the often evil purposes of man.
The reaction to my blog expressing a positive image of Muslims caused an avalanche of mostly supportive comments intermixed with delusional and predominantly uninformed negative remarks about Islam.
These comments were mostly illustrative of willful ignorance wrapped in disingenuous Christian misanthropy of other faiths. When combined with the sophistry of the President and others demonizing an entire culture based on the acts of a few, it creates a dangerous atmosphere of behavior contrary to the foundation principles upon which this country was built.
In Casablanca, we toured the grounds of the fifth largest Mosque in the world, Hassan II Mosque. The Hassan II Mosque or Grande Mosquée Hassan II is the largest mosque in Africa. Its minaret is the world’s tallest minaret at 210 meters high.
The most exciting part of the Mosque is the motivation behind it. While the structure is awe-inspiring Hassan II, the King who conceived building the Mosque, established it as a symbol of religious tolerance. Nearby are two Catholic Churches, all within a short distance of the Mosque.
But here is the genuinely exciting part. The Mosque was built mostly with donations. Donations from many people all over the world. Including Saudi Arabia, Spain, Yemen, Egypt and, wait for it, the United States and Israel. People of all faiths saw the Mosque as a symbol not just of the Islamic faith but as a symbol of the many faiths of the world.
We can benefit more from understanding that which we do not than from embracing ignorance inspired by blind adherence to religious tenets. By demonizing Islam here, we lose an opportunity to foster common understanding and reduce the chances for those who would twist religion to their own purpose.
Morocco was the first nation in the world to recognize the United States as a sovereign nation. Morocco can also serve as a wonderful place to showcase the infinitely more essential similarities between our cultures rather than differences misused by those who choose not to understand.
Nothing could be less American than to deny the words written at the very founding of this nation, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”