Illustrations of Islamophobia Part II (and a little bit of hope)

On another blog, I just came upon this speech given by Newt Gingrich.  He discusses America’s major security threats, namely “radical Islamists”.  He says clearly that we are not at war with terrorism–which is news to me.  He claims that we are endangered by an Islamic threat.

I obviously do understand that America has been attacked by terrorists who claim to adhere to Islam.  (The version of Islam I know, the version that some of my best friends practice, is not the bastardization of religion that the terrorists believe in.)  But Newt seems to be implying that we are at war with Islam as a religion.  He says that we need to uproot the mosques that teach violence and hatred.  Yes, I’m sure there are mosques that teach hate, as there are churches and synagogues that do so, but the vast majority of these places of worship do not.  Newt does not make that distinction; he generalizes, making it appear that all mosques teach violence.

He also demonizes sharia law, which is something that he, and much of the West, greatly misunderstand.  The term has come to be seen as synonymous with oppression of women and denial of religious freedom, so when Newt uses it in that context, if further embeds that misunderstood view in the minds of Americans.

In order to avoid a Shirley Sherrod issue, I have posted two videos.  The first is the shorter, clipped version that just shows Newt’s comments relating to Islam.  Here is the full video to make clear that the first clips are not taken out of context and painting a picture of Newt’s remarks that he did not intend.  Sadly, Newt did intend what he said…

Lastly, like the blogger I got this video from, I find it ironic that he says we must stop the Islamization of the U.S. and Europe and then criticizes the “secular” Democrats.  So both Islam (religion) and secularism (no religion) are bad…? What is acceptable then?  Though he wouldn’t admit it, it is clear his answer would only include Christianity.

On a happier note, I came across a post today about how it is our religious duty as Christians to support our Muslims friends and fight the kind of prejudice that people like Newt are spewing.  Here is a quote from Amanda’s post that echoes my own feelings, I say loving my Muslim neighbors as myself is the highest articulation of my Faith and its most convincing moment. Check out her awesome blog here.  Sometimes I get discouraged by people who perpetrate Islamophobia, but it is posts like these that give me hope that change is possible.  (Sorry for all the “hope-y, change-y stuff.”) 🙂

A Catholic priest’s defense of Islam in Europe

In his open letter to Dutch MP Geert Wilders, UK Catholic priest Frank Julian Gelli criticizes the MP’s Islamophobic statements.  As a fellow Catholic, I am encouraged by Fr. Frank’s remarks, and I hope more Catholics in Europe and the US come to share his view. Thanks to Saladin128 for the link.

Why ‘witness’?

Welcome to my blog, Witness.

For the past several months I have been hoping to launch this blog.  Throughout my freshman year of college, many thoughts have come to mind that I have wanted to share with a wider audience.  These reflections have been spurred by classroom discussions, campus events, interactions with friends, and incidents in world news during the past year.

Over the summer, I will finally have time to put to paper (or virtual Word Document) the things I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had.  I’ve been putting off a lot of writing that needs to be done, and I hope this blog will give me the incentive to write and continue posting into the upcoming school year.

You can expect the topics discussed here to be wide-ranging.  My previous posts on Facebook are a good indicator of what will appear here shortly–posts about news and writing, politics, culture, and religion, both in the U.S. and abroad.  Some days I’ll merely post links with short blurbs, and occasionally I’ll write longer reflections on an article, a news event, or an experience from my life.  I would love this blog to become a place of discussion, where we all can express our thoughts on issues we find significant.  I welcome you to challenge my positions, correct my mistakes, and share your own thoughts in the comments section.

I wanted to come up with a theme and title for this blog that brings my passions–specifically journalism and the relationship between Christianity and Islam–together.  ‘Witness’ seemed perfect.  Let me explain.

For several years, I was a member of a youth journalism organization in Indianapolis.  Along with other factors, my time spent in Y-Press convinced me to pursue a career in journalism.

The word witness connects directly to journalism.  As journalists, we witness and document an event to bring it to those who are not present to experience it.  But journalism is not a passive state of watching; it is an intentional engagement that transcends passivity and requires questioning, challenging, and immersing ourselves into our subject.  All of this is done with the goal of seeking truth, providing greater understanding and knowledge to our readers, and for me, ultimately creating more human connections between reader and subject.  (More on this topic in future posts.)

Another one of my interests is religion–specifically Christianity and Islam–and how it influences or is influenced by culture, politics, economics, location, etc.  Aside from its impact on world events, I am also concerned with religion’s intrinsic value–what it can do for us individually and spiritually. I enjoy learning about the theological similarities and differences and how those things are translated into ritual practice, cultural traditions, etc.

The word witness has had a significant impact on both Christianity and Islam.  It appears in similar contexts in the Bible and the Quran, and the evolution of the word has developed almost identically in the respective religions.

In Isaiah 43:10, the Lord says, “You are my witness…and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.”  In Surat al-Baqara, God also says, “And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that [with your lives] you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.”

God calls on His people to be witnesses, but what does the role of witness entail?

In the Bible, the word martus (Greek for witness) refers to someone “who testifies to a fact of which he has knowledge from personal observation…[A] witness of Christ, is a  person who, though he has never seen nor heard the Divine Founder of the Church, is yet so firmly convinced of the truths of the Christian religion, that he gladly suffers death rather than deny it.” 1

In Islam, a shaheed (شهيد, Arabic for witness) “sees the truth physically and thus stands by it firmly, so much so that not only does he testify it verbally, but he is prepared to struggle and fight and give up his life for the truth.”  A witness’ goal is “struggle and sacrifice for the sake of the truth.” 2

Today, the English word “martyr” has replaced “witness” in translations in both religions, and sometimes carries a negative connotation.  However, a martyr is simply a person who struggles to defend a greater truth, and is prepared to die in the protection and promotion of that truth.

The religious role of a witness and martyr relates well to the role of a journalist.  I have already discussed how a journalist seeks to uncover and testify to certain truths.  But the journalist also must be prepared to sacrifice.  Not necessarily sacrifice life–though many parts of the world where journalists report are quite dangerous.  As with any work that attempts to benefit the common good, some form of self-sacrifice is necessary and ultimately positive.

Practitioners of journalism, Christianity, and Islam are all seekers of truth.  I see this blog as a way for me and others to continue searching for truth, truth that not only occurs on factual and historical levels, but also on religious and human ones.  I hope you too will participate in that process.





“… You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8