Chain-email disregards facts, perpetuates intolerance


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A couple days ago, I received a chain email from my uncle. Normally, I do not open these because of the ubiquitous dancing cats or get-rich-quick schemes, but I was bored and clicked on the link in the email, anyway.

As I scrolled down, reading through poorly written sentences containing obnoxious fonts and colors, I soon found out that this email was of a different breed. Titled "Wow! She Did It Again!!!," the email described a speech given by the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in which she brutally lambastes Muslims who abide by Shariah law.

The email states, "Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terrorist attacks." The email goes on to declare, "Gillard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying she supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques."

Gillard did not speak or allude to these outrageous sentiments. The email is a hoax. It began circulating a year or so ago, then lay dormant for some time, and now, it has regained circulation or a following, so to speak. 

The problem with this chain email isn't that it is a hoax involving false statements from a prime minister of an ally nation. The problem is that many Americans wholeheartedly believe in and revere the bigoted views toward Muslims expressed in the email. At the bottom of the email, instructions are given to forward it to as many people as you know if you agree with the sentiments. After tracking the message history and investigating its online popularity, I found that the email has been forwarded thousands upon thousands of times through email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. In many forwards, someone will add a hooray, awesome, or take that.

For these Americans, Islam and Shariah law are wrongly equated with terrorism and threats to Christianity. They holistically view all Shariah law-practicing Muslims as terrorists. But many of these Americans do not even bother to educate themselves on the practices of Shariah law nor try to understand its cultural and historical foundations. Shariah law, as described in the Koran and by the Prophet Muhammad, is rooted in morality and truthfulness. Justice, equality, and a personal relationship with Allah (God) are the utmost principles to live by for Muslims. Shariah law promotes peacefulness and does not constitute the promotion of Islam onto any unwilling party or person. It is not a violent, prejudiced, or threatening religion or way of life.

Those who commit violent acts of terrorism in the name of Islam are not true Islamists or children of Allah. They do not live by Shariah law and its teachings. Equating deadly terrorists with the teachings of Islam is like equating members of the Westboro Baptist Church with the teachings of Christianity. Though they commit acts of violence in the name of religion, they are not true believers of such religion.

Both the Bible and the Koran teach love and compassion: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven," Matthew 5:34. "And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel evil by that deed which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity will become as though he was a devoted friend" (Koran, Ch. 41:34).

Assumptions and accusations that are meant to demean a people on the basis of their religion are dangerous thoughts and actions that can lead to irrational and extreme agendas. Respect for others' cultural and religious differences should be upheld. Morality is an intrinsic expectation that needs to become a part of everyone's daily life.

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