[Muzammil Ahmed is a member of the board of directors for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan.]
The recent letter that your newspaper elected to print from Keith Jones (Sentinel, Dec. 5) demonstrated poor editorial judgment and contributes to a climate of ignorance and misunderstanding about Muslims in America.
Mr. Jones is clearly a person who was disturbed by a previous article in your paper. This prompted him to write an alarmingly hateful letter about Muslims. Rather than rely upon what Muslims themselves believe in their own religion, he was presumptuous enough to cite Islamic texts out of context and state what he thinks Muslims believe. His main contention is that "Islam is not a religion of peace. It's a religion of forced submission."
This conclusion stated by Mr. Jones is an invitation to hate Muslims. If a similar letter were submitted about other religious or ethnic groups, most editors would use good judgment and discern that the writer is not participating in any constructive dialogue.
Islamic civilization has stretched over many centuries and over many continents. It holds perhaps the greatest examples of coexistence between religions during the centuries of rule in Spain and India. Islam has flourished because it accepts diversity and requires just dealings with people of all faiths. The Quran states, "We have made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other" and constantly admonishes all people to deal justly with one another. The Quran also states that there is no compulsion in religion.
As with any religious text, the Quran has portions that can be misquoted and taken out of context. Numerous detractors of Muslims have used this tactic to argue that Muslims are evil or dangerous. On the contrary, Muslims have many of the same concerns as most Americans. Muslims are an integral part of American society, and over 5 million count it as their home. They believe in the same God as that of the Christians and Jews, and share the same core values. Americans should learn about their fellow Muslim neighbors from reliable sources rather than from individuals with an ax to grind.
The Council on American Islamic-Relations-Michigan strongly believes in the right of all American to speak their minds. However, responsible media outlets should set standards that preclude the publication of hate-mongering speech or blatant misstatements of fact. Local newspapers are an asset to the community and should be used to promote dialogue and discussion.