Peace is an element of Islam
By Special to the Times-Union

On Sept. 11, 2001, the worst terrorist attack ever to take place on American soil unfolded on live television.

That these attacks were committed by Muslim men is one factor behind the popular misperception linking Islam, the faith of over a billion people, to terrorism.

But is Islam a primary factor behind terrorism? The simple answer is no. In fact, Islam condemns terrorism. Indeed, peace and justice are the foundational elements of Islam.

The Quran states: "If anyone slays a human being - unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on Earth - it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind."

Taken together, Islamic jurisprudence advocates the preservation of life, honor and the dignity of all human life as a supreme endeavor.

Even when fighting is permitted, it is not without rules of engagement. The 10 rules of war in Islam state, "Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies.

"Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone."

It should not surprise anyone that Muslims, like people of other faiths, do not always live up to the normative teachings of their faith.

Al-Qaida is one such group whose actions are contrary to the teachings of Islam, yet they are often mislabeled as "Islamic."

Military action is sometimes necessary to combat terrorism, but often it is not the best option. After all, terrorism is not an ideology. It is a tactic. How does one wage a war against a tactic?

The way forward is to engage in common-sense methods of intelligence gathering without criminalizing entire groups of people, military strategies without resorting to large-scale bombings, ending foreign occupations and investing in an agenda that gives impoverished societies economic hope that can then lead to political freedoms.

In combating terrorism, democracies should be mindful of Ben Franklin's admonition, "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."


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