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Don't let religion dictate stereotypes

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Ahhhh. It has been an absolutely phenomenal week. The sun has been shinning, people have been friendly and life is good.

This week's column I would like to dedicate to a particularly important issue to my heart. This issue is stereotypes and common misconceptions.

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Now I know we all are guilty of it at some point in our lives, but it is our jobs as good people to try our best to educate ourselves as to not look like fools when we spout our mouths off. More particularly, I am writing about the very large misconceptions this country seems to have towards the Islamic faith.

Misconception one: Islamic people are violent, terrorist or extremists. This is the biggest misconception in Islam, no doubt resulting from the constant stereotyping and bashing the media gives Islam.

When a gunman attacks a mosque in the name of Judaism, a Catholic IRA guerrilla sets off a bomb in an urban area, or Serbian Orthodox militiamen rape and kill innocent Muslim civilians, these acts are not used to stereotype an entire faith.

Never are these acts attributed to the religion of the perpetrators. Yet how many times have we heard the words "Islamic, Muslim fundamentalist etc." linked with violence.

Politics in so called "Muslim countries" may or may not have any Islamic basis. Often dictators and politicians will use the name of Islam for their own purposes. One should remember to go to the source of Islam and separate what the true religion of Islam says from what is portrayed in the media.

Islam literally means "submission to God" and is derived from a root word meaning "peace." Islam may seem like an exotic and strange religion in the modern world.

That is only because in the west, religion does not always play such a prominent role in the culture of people, whereas Islam is considered a way of life to the Muslim people.

No where in the Quran does it say go out and kill for God. The term "jihad" literally means "struggle." Muslims believe there are two kinds of jihad. The other jihad is the inner struggle of the soul, which everyone wages against egotistic desires for the sake of attaining inner peace.

Misconception two: Islamic people worship a different God. Allah is actually only the Arabic word for God. Allah for Muslims is the greatest and most inclusive of the names of God. It is an Arabic word of rich meaning, denoting the one and only God and ascribing no partners to Him.

It is exactly the same word in which Jews, in Hebrew, use for God (eloh), the word which Jesus Christ used in Aramaic when he prayed to God. God has an identical name in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; Allah is the same God worshiped by Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Muslims believe that Allah's sovereignty is to be acknowledged in worship and in the pledge to obey His teaching and commandments, conveyed through His messengers and prophets who were sent at various times and in many places throughout history.

The key differences of the three religions are their beliefs in different forms of a savior. They each acknowledge the fact that the other worships God and only believes the others are worshiping in an incorrect fashion.

It is also true that in the Quran acknowledges Jesus Christ as a virgin birth and considers Mary one of the purest women in all of creation.

They confirm Jesus a pure man of God but do not believe he is the actual son of God. Jesus is revered and acknowledged in the Islamic faith.

Misconception three: The Islamic people are a barbaric backward people. Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity of its doctrine -- Islam calls for faith in only one God worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation.

Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet (pbuh), "seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman."

The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature and history.

Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments, which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery, were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.

As you all can see it is unjust and unfair to do such a proud and generally peaceful people the injustice of profiling and labeling due to the misconceptions of the media and the current administration in the White House.

So remember everyone before you judge, try living in someone else's shoes for a day, or do a little research before you point fingers and make wild accusations.

Christopher Damlo graduated from Detroit Lakes High School this spring.

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