Contrary to the widely held misconception that it is a religion of radicalism and fanaticism, Islam promotes peace and tolerance, hence it accommodates all races, creeds and ethnicities. Islam has enjoined its followers to be tolerant towards non Muslims and did not bar them from reaching out to them, particularly those who do not fight them or hinder them from practising their religion. Allah says in Chapter (60) Verse (8): “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes; Verily Allah loves those who deal with equity.” The verse unequivocally demonstrates Islam’s unflinching commitment to tolerance and peaceful coexistence as well as mutual respect. Not only does Islam promote peaceful coexistence and tolerance towards non-Muslims, it also guarantees freedom for the people of the Book. Allah says in Chapter (2) Verse (256): “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path.” He also says in Chapter (10) verse (100): “And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed - all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” Allah equally says in Chapter (88 )verses (21-22): “So remind them you are only a reminder. You are not a dictator over them.” Prophet Mohammed was an embodiment of tolerance. Upon the conquest of Mecca on the 10th year of Hijrah (Migration from Mecca to Medina), the Prophet pardoned all the Meccans who have wronged him, and in fact forced him into exile. Addressing thousands of people who converged to listen to his sermon at his birthplace of Mecca on that auspicious occasion, he turned to them: “O, Quraysh, what do you think of the treatment I should accord you? And they said, “Mercy, O Prophet of Allah. We expect nothing but good from you. Thereupon Muhammed declared: “I speak to you in the same words as Yusuf spoke to his brothers. This day there is no reproach against you. Go your way, for you are free.” As a result of the Prophet’s sense of tolerance, no single life was lost and no blood was shed despite Muslims’ numeric strength. Many parts of the world were conquered by Muslims without any bloodshed, hence it became a religion of choice and attraction to the masses. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, was never conquered by sword. Rather, the manners of Arab traders, mostly from Yemen, attracted the population to Islam. The same is true of millions in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. Amid frequent terrorist attacks claimed by so-called radical Islamists across the world, including In Muslim countries, it is becoming increasingly hard to persuade non- Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. Recently, Egypt has seen a terrorist attack against the minority Coptic community claiming the lives of scores of worshippers and two security officers, while many were injured. Before that an attacker ploughed a store with a truck in Stockholm resulting in Casualties. This state of affairs has given rise to Islamophobia and reprisal attacks against some innocent Muslims. Far right parties are gaining momentum in the West due to the negative stereotypes projected against Muslims by the “biased” media. I would like to affirm that the perpetrators of such heinous crimes do not represent the mainstream Muslims. As a matter of fact, one of the Prophet’s wives, Maria Al Qibtiyyah, was a Copt Christian and later converted to Islam. He coexisted with Jews in Medina before they started causing troubles for him. This equally highlights the tolerance the Prophet exercised vis a vis the People of Script, including Christians and Jews. It is imperative for people not to paint all Muslims with the same brush. On the other hand, Muslims should not allow a tiny minority amongst them to hijack this great peaceful religion.
Basidia Drammeh is a Kuwait educated Gambian Islamic scholar and commentator based in Ottawa, Canada. He studied at University of Luwait where he graduated with BA(Hons) and Master (MA) in Islamic Studies and Englih Literature. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org