We know religious extremism can produce terrorists. There have been Jews and Hindus who have committed acts of terror. The Ku Klux Klan, Jim Jones, Eric Rudolph, Anders Breivik and the murderers of abortion providers all claimed Christianity among their motives. And extremist Muslims have engaged in terrorism in the name of Islam.
We don’t judge Christianity by its extremists because we personally know a lot of good sensible Christians. But if you don’t know any Muslims — and polls say most Americans admit they don’t — then you might tend to judge all Muslims by the negative reports you see on the news or the fictional Muslims who are portrayed as the bad guys on TV and in the movies.
A 2010 Gallup report found 43 percent of Americans admitted to being prejudiced against Muslims, while 85 percent of those polled said they knew little or nothing at all about Islam.
There was a news story after 9/11 when the airplanes began to fly again about a Sikh man who was taken off an airplane because he wore a turban. Most Americans don’t know the difference between Muslims and Sikhs.
How many Americans know that Islam, Judaism and Christianity share roots in the story of the patriarch Abraham? That Islam has a very high regard for Jesus, teaching he was a great prophet? That, similar to Judaism and Christianity, Islam teaches the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated? “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother what he desires for himself,”the Hadith says.
Muslims and conservative Christians often express the very same values when it comes to issues such as alcohol, modesty, family and community.