Kalthoum

excerpt from ‘Barefoot in Baghdad’ by Manal M. Omar

Baghdad

She was hiding. Then again, everyone seemed to be hiding. It was October 2003, eight months into the disastrous U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But she was practically a child. And her enemy proved to be more insidious – and heartbreaking – than the ones we read about and saw on television. Getting to her was my first hurdle…

Once inside the police building, an Iraqi police officer and a U.S. Military Policeman practically tackled me in an effort to argue their case…. Both men were right. She would be killed if she were released. But the police had no authority, under Iraqi law, to hold her…

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to make any decision. I wasn’t there to judge or referee. My sole purpose was to ensure that the girl was safe, clothed, fed, and healthy.

“I’m only here to speak with the girl. May I please see her?”…

I opened the door to a small room… The girl sat in the opposite corner, her knees pulled into her chest, her chin resting on top. She rocked back and forth, barely noticing that I’d entered… The sight of her shocked me. Her skin practically hung from her bones, and the long, thick black hair stretching down her back emphasized her frailty. She was a child trapped in an old woman’s body.

Despair

Despair

I quietly walked toward her and sat next to her. I wasn’t sure how to begin, so I said hello and introduced myself. She continued to rock, saying nothing…

She finally spoke and told me that her name was Kalthoum… When she stood, I realized why the Iraqi policeman said that he couldn’t protect her, not even against his own officers. The way she was dressed – in tight Capri jeans and a low-cut tank top – would have offended even the most liberal Iraqi men…

“I am sure they told you I am a prostitute,” she said sheepishly. “Those hypocrites out there. One of them used to be my client. That is why they are so eager to get me out.”

The man, one of the police officers, had used her for sex, and now he wanted her released and left for dead. This was not, as one might expect in the United States, because he was ashamed of having patronized a prostitute. To the contrary, in Iraq it was not uncommon for men to engage in such behaviour. They did so openly and without remorse. But the judgement of a prostitute? Death. So the very man who had slept with Kalthoum wanted her to die because of it.

IraqIraqi Prostitutes

“Kalthoum,” I said…”I need you to tell me exactly what happened. Who were the men who were shooting at you? Also, do you have a place you can go, other than here?”

She shook her head as her eyes filled with tears. The men who’d chased here were her husband and brother-in-law. Three years ago her family had forced her to marry her cousin. She was thirteen at the time. She took a photo from her wallet and showed me a picture of her in a wedding gown next to a man old enough to be her father. On her wedding night, she did not was not want to have sex. So her new husband had beaten and raped her. This, according to Kalthoum, became their normal form of intimacy. He pulled her out of school and locked her in his house. She had considered killing herself.

Iraqi Women
From Iraqi women protest against draft law to permit child marriage

Then the Americans invaded Iraq. That same week, Kalthoum ran away. An older woman found her on the steets and offered her food and shelter. The woman had nursed her back to health and gave her pills to ease her pain. Soon Kalthoum became addicted. At the time, she didn’t realize that the woman was the head of a prostitution ring.

I’d heard many similar stories. But hearing them first hand from Kalthoum, a child, made me sick.

Child

From Iraq drafts law to allow marriage of nine-year-old girls

“I want to make sure you have food, shelter, and good health care… I want you to protect yourself from disease and unwanted pregnancies“.

“You are too late for that,” she said in a barely audible whisper as tears filled her eyes. She put her hand on her stomach to indicate that she was already pregnant. I closed my eyes…

Pregnant-girl
From the Battle Against Child Marriage

The fact that Kalthoum was under eighteen placed her in the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Legally, the ministry was required to provide her with a place in one of the public orphanages… Orphans in both Iraqi and Muslim Society have a special reverence. Numerous verses in the Koran and sayings from the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) called for respecting, caring for, and providing for orphans…

Orphans
From Muslims for Humanity: Helping Hand

I settled in the backseat to prepare my case for the minister… She had a compelling story, and the fact that she had been forced into marriage at such a young age solidified her status as a victim. Besides, she was only sixteen years old. The deputy minister had to take pity on her situation…

One hour later it was clear that this was not going to happen. The deputy minister was visibly insulted that I had the audacity to bring such a case to his attention… When I tried to point out that she was underage, he countered with the fact that she was a married woman, which placed her in the category of adulthood. Orphanages were for children only. I tried to argue that she had been forced into marriage at the age of thirteen, which was illegal according to Iraqi law. He shook his head, pointing out that it was a common occurrence during the years of UN sanctions.

“How else were parents to secure their daughters?” he asked.

Brides
According to a UN report in 2005, 60 million girls worldwide have been married. A startling 100 million more are expected to be forced or sold into marriage by their parents in the next 10 years.

I could not accept his response, but all my phone calls to Iraqi women’s organizations resulted in dead ends. Kalthoum was too much of an extreme case, most of them argued. We cannot help her without making ourselves vulnerable to verbal and physical attacks. I was not surprised by these responses…

I called several Iraqi women’s organisations for information, as I knew they would be the only people to tell me the truth about her situation. They all confirmed my worse fears: her return to her family would be a death sentence.

Honor

Conference to Remember Du’a Khalil and denounce Honour Killings globally!

 Yet Kalthoum was fully aware of this. In her heart of hearts, she seemed to believe it to be a reasonable sentence. Over the span of a few days, Kalthoum had developed a strong sense of the cosmic powers of Karma, and she begged me to allow her to pay her dues to her family so that her suffering would end.

She explained to me repeatedly that her life was over and that the decisions she had made had left little room for her to start over. However, she had four unmarried sisters at home. Her scandal reached the tribe… If she were to go back to her family and face her sentence, then honor would be restored. If she were to run away, then her four unmarried sisters would pay the price. They would be shunned by society and would never marry because of their sister’s tarnished reputation. Worse yet, she argued, they would be forced into unsuitable marriages as a third or fourth wife…

Kalthoum was only sixteen. That was the lone thought that went through my mind as she pleaded with me to help her get back to her family. What life was this girl talking about? What choices? Was she really given a choice when she was married off? Or tricked into prostitution? Was her family really given a choice, fighting to survive war after war and a decade of international sanctions?
I shook my head. I knew that the final decision would rest in my hands…

Family
Members of a poor family sit in their makeshift house in Baghdad August 28, 2010. 

Fortunately, I didn’t have to make this choice myself. I had met a strong Kurdish woman in a conference…She had established one of the first Iraqi women’s shelters to house women from across the country… The Asuda organization was also one of the only shelters I knew that would take ‘untouchable’ cases. Untouchable cases were almost always cases dealing with family honor…

Beyond the Asuda organization, I was captivated by Khanim Latif, the woman who led it… Khanim’s office was stacked with photo albums of abused women. Her contacts would often tip her off when they received such cases. Khanim would rush over with her camera to take photos… Entire albums were dedicated to corpses of women. When high-level government officials denied the practice of honor crimes, she would pull out numerous photos of women burned alive or with gun shots and silence her opposition immediately…

Iraq2

From http://www.lapidomedia.com

“Honor killings happen,” Khanim said. “And they happen more than we would like to admit. However, they often happen because our communities have not learned to mediate around such a sensitive topic. No father wants to kill his daughter. Give him an excuse to maintain his honor in front of his tribe, and he will grab on to it. But our community refuses to facilitate such discussions. At Asuda we do. We use religious and tribal leaders to encourage the parents to find solution other than slaying their daughters.”

i0205shr

An Iraqi man talks with his daughter

Khanim advised me to think of someone who could facilitate the discussion with her father. I could not think of anyone until Yusuf reminded me of Munther.

Munther was pleased to hear from us and to see that we were seeking reconciliation with Kalthoum’s tribe… He jumped at the opportunity to help… Munther managed to negotiate the terms of her return, successfully arranged her divorce, and had the father sign a statement that Kalthoum would not be harmed if she were to return. Munther also negotiated an agreement with the tribe that he would be able to visit every three months to confirm that Kalthoum was in good health (or to be more blunt, alive).

Honor1From the bulletin of the oppression of women

* * *

Related posts:

women-in-islam

From NotMyTribe

Instead of passing the blame, let’s focus on finding culturally appropriate solutions. 😉

THE END

WoMEN for Women in Iraq

Excerpts from Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal Omar

Baghdad

I was among the first international aid workers to arrive in Baghdad in 2003. I would also be among the last to leave. The two intervening years inside Iraq would transform my life forever…

My international colleagues were struggling to force Iraqi culture into convenient boxes, but I simply accepted its unique, fluctuating shape. International journalists marveled over the fact that women who were covered head to toe walked side by side with women with orange-colored hair and wearing tight jeans, but I simply shrugged. It was natural to me. The mosaic of identities inside Iraq was not hypocritical or schizophrenic; it was what made the country powerful. Nevertheless, that mosaic was shattered by the eruption of violence that followed on the heels of the U.S. invasion…

The hopes and dreams that Iraqis once dared to share evaporated in the smoke of car bombs. The diverse people who populated Iraq – Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Muslims, Christians, Sabaeans  had once sipped tea at their doorsteps, but now they had disappeared from the streets. Women hid behind closed doors. The only images from within Iraq were of death and destruction. The only feelings people described were betrayal and despair. Overnight, that brilliant diversity – Iraq’s own secret superpower – was forgotten, buried under the rubble left by bombs…

Iraqi woman
An Iraqi woman and child watch US soldiers carry out a raid in Tikrit 

I had been offered the position of country director with Women for Women International, a group that helped female survivors of war to rebuild their lives… Women for Women International focused on the most vulnerable women. This usually meant those who were the primary breadwinners in their house: widows, divorcees, or unmarried women living with elderly parents. In addition to the economic challenges, there was a social stigma attached to these women. This meant that their finding work was even more difficult…

First, the program addressed the pragmatic challenges of securing food, water, and shelter. Our main objective was to train the participants in a job skill that would enable them to earn an income. Second, the program hosted bimonthly sessions in which women would discuss ways to improve their lives. A large portion centered on protecting their rights. At the same time, we would organize awareness workshops centered on health care, family planning, and access to education…

 Logo

 

Without any programs established, our staff consisted only of a local logistics team: Yusuf, Fadi, and Mais. Since we did not have an office space, the first time I met them was in the hotel restaurant… The three staffers stood in a line, looking at me as if I had landed from outer space. I reached out to shake their hands. All three appeared to be frozen in place, and then they shook my hand awkwardly and gave me tight, forced smiles. The look of disappointment on their faces was obvious, although I didn’t know its source…

I jumped in to try to break the ice… “Well, that’s all good. But at the end of the day it’s still a bit odd. Women for Women, and all I see in front of me are… men.”… The moment would have been less painful if I had slammed into an iceberg. The three continued to look at me with blank stares…

Later I learned that the three men had been promised an opportunity to work with an American woman. Instead, their boss looked a lot like an Iraqi women….

“Look,” said Fadi… “ when we joined the organization, Mark told us an American woman was coming. We were thrilled. We had seen all these blond and blue-eyed women and thought we would have the chance to get to know one. Instead, we got an Arab.” He grinned.

“Not, that’s not it,” Mais interrupted. “It’s not just that you’re not blond, although that was a bit of a shock. It’s that you’re also covered. I mean, who covers in America?”…

I laughed… and assured them that I could understand why they were disappointed. I also told them there were more where I came from. There were many Muslim American women who were veiled, gregarious professionals. They were excited to hear about my experiences growing up and pleased to see that I had liberal views despite my conservative dress…

Manal

Manal Omar

Mais and I reached the checkpoint outside the convention center…  A soldier asked for our IDs, and we promptly handed them over…
“Women for Women. Now that’s a great organization. Are you with them as well?” he asked Mais. Mais nodded, not daring to say anything.
“Well, then, I guess it’s only appropriate that you get searched with the women.” He pointed toward an Iraqi female translator seated a few meters away…

The Iraqi woman searched me, but she was too embarrassed to search Mais properly. She just patted him on the back and sent us on our way.

Mais turned completely red and murmured about how he had been humiliated… Two hours later… Mais was still fuming about the incident at the checkpoint. I could hear him as he told Fadi and Yusuf how the soldier had humiliated him.

“Saddiq? (For real?),” Yusuf asked. “Are you saying that you were patted down and body searched by a woman?”

Mais nodded, his face again turning red.

“I can’t believe you are complaining,” Fadi whined. “I am never that lucky!”

The entire ride back they both continued to tease him and asked him to recount the experience.

Ticklish

Body Search Cartoons

The security situation was fragile, and Mais argued that new employees had to be recruited based on strong relationship. At first, I thought this had been a setup for Mais to hire his brother or cousin. Instead, he brought in a childhood friend, Salah. After I saw how easily Salah integrated into the team, I understood Mais’s point of view.

The companionship between the four stood as a living testimony of a diverse yet unified Iraq: Fadi was a Christian, Mais a secular Shia, Yusuf a practicing Shia, and Salah a Sunni from the western province of Fallujah. These four men represented different communities in Iraq, and each one introduced me to a different side of Baghdad.

Early the next morning Salah stopped by with his wife, Nagham… She shared with me her stories of the four men who were now my self-appointed bodyguards. I was always aware of the camaraderie between the four friends, but I never realized how deep their relationship was with one another. She described them as neighbors who became friends, friends who became brothers…

Their friendship stood in defiance of talk of the inevitability of a segregated Iraq. As the situation inside Iraq disintegrated around me, I had the privilege of watching these four interact. They loved each other in a way Western culture reserved for blood brothers. Each one was quite literally prepared to take a bullet for the other. And somehow I had been allowed into their circle…

071113-M-7404B-006

Iraqi Boys

Yusuf’s and Fadi’s families had adopted me as a long-lost cousin. Yusuf’s mother sent pots of food for me, and his sister, Maysoon, would send her housekeeper twice a week to clean my home and do my laundry… During this time, Hussein and Maysoon would often visit… During these visits, I also came to know Hussein.

A true representative of the modern Iraqi man, Hussein amazed me with how supportive he was of Maysoon. He loved the idea of her finding work outside their home. He would often tell me stories of the first time they met. They were college sweethearts, and he had admired her vibrancy and confidence during their freshman year…

Family1 Family1
Iraqi Family

There was a strong lobbying group inside the U.S.-appointed Interim Governing Council calling for an introduction of religious laws when applying the personal status laws in Iraq. These laws covered everything from the right to education to freedom of movement to inheritances to property rights to marriage and divorce, and child custody…

The passage of the 1959 personal status law had been the envy of all women’s rights movements in the region. It was a source of great pride. The law ensured that Iraqi women could marry under civil law instead of religious law, made polygamy more difficult, granted mothers custody of their children, and imposed a minimum age for marriage. Iraqi women had gained their rights in these and other crucial areas while other countries were struggling. Iraqi women were voting in the 1980s, for example, while Saudi women were still struggling for recognition… If the personal status laws were interpreted through a religious lens, however, the situation had turned dire. In almost all religious interpretations used in the Middle East, personal status laws placed women at a disadvantage…

On December 29, 2003, with less than a thirty-minute debate, the Interim Governing Council (IGC) voted for Resolution 137… Resolution 137 would push women’s rights back centuries. Whereas Iraqi women had been looking for ways to leap forward, they now found themselves in the unenviable position of fighting for the status quo…

Gender

Gender Equality – Steps Backwards

Work was flourishing. We had managed to recruit more than five hundred participants in Baghdad, Hillah, and Karbala, and our job skills training program had launched effectively. In addition to offering training in the more conservative jobs of carpet weaving and hairdressing, we introduced an untraditional course on carpentry… Due to the large number of widows and divorcees who were not allowed to call a male carpenter into their homes, a niche existed for female carpenters…

Iraq
From Women for Women

Ironically, over the first six months I spent working on women’s issues in Iraq, I had been fully dependent on men. First, there was the male staff at Women for Women International. Yusuf, Fadi, and Mais had become my lifelines. I was dependent on them for everything from food and water to the ability to move around the country freely. Within months it became clear that any success I had in launching a program would be directly tied to them. Only years later did I fully grasp the extent of their loyalty; the risks they took were the sole reason I was able to leave Iraq alive. ..

Second, there were the male leaders in the communities. From Diyala to Karbala,to Tikrit, the one thing that remained consistent across the communities I visited was the need to go through the male elders before ever meeting with a woman. During my trips around the country I would have to meet with a room full of men in order to describe in detail the programs we planned to set up for the women in their community…

In almost every instance the men demonstrated a visible reassurance at hearing that Islam was my reference point for working on women’s rights…

womens rights
From Women’s Rights in Islam

“Did you know a woman had the right to charge her husband for breast-feeding?” an elderly man from Huriyah explained to me. He told me how this was an example of Islam acknowledging the mother’s role in contributing to society’s growth. It was also one of the many ways Islam supported the economic independence of women. He further explained that any property a woman acquired by her own work or through an inheritance belonged to her independently of her husband.

A son of a tribal leader of Fallujah outlined for me the women of the historical narrative of Islam. Among the stories he shared was that of Umm ‘Umara, a woman who lived at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and fought in many battles. He explained that she was famous for her effectiveness with weapons, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) stated she was better than most men.

I pointed out what I hoped was obvious: somewhere along the lines we lost that remarkable tradition, and women had suffered the consequences. In most cases the conversation was enough to grant me permission to meet with the women in the communities…

Women1
From imaq.me

At some point during the first few months in Iraq, I came across Ashraf Al-Khalidi, a young civil society activist… Ashraf saw the potential in a democratic Iraq, and he worked day and night to fulfil his role in making it happen. He was a native of Karbala, and he urged me to expand my programs into the governorate…

Although he was based in Baghdad, his family home was in Karbala’s city centre. Ashraf had six sisters; two were married and four were still at the family home. His father passed away and, as the oldest son, Ashraf was considered the head of the household… The fact that Ashraf was an active member of civil society strongly distinguished him from other male heads of households. He urged his sisters to continue their education and encouraged them not to rush into marriage. I was touched at the way his sisters would run to greet him, love and admiration radiating as they embraced him each time he visited…

Man
The New Arab Manhood: Ali from Iraq.

I stood straddling the toilet, yelling out the window for help… Thirty minutes earlier I had managed to lock myself inside the bathroom of one of our Baghdad women’s centres, which we were renovating… The first ten minutes I had been paralyzed with horror as I realized that I had not only locked the stall but also locked the front door to the bathroom as well. There was no logic to the fact that I had locked not one but two doors except that I was so exhausted that I was no longer thinking. And now I had to pay the price.

After the initial shock wore off, I started to bang and yell on the stall, but to no avail… It was almost sunset. The official opening of the women’s centers was the next morning, and we had been working late hours to make sure the center would be ready in time. I shook my head as I realized that nobody could hear me. My imagination ran wild as I realized that it would be easy for the staff to think someone else had taken me home. I prepared myself to be locked for the next twenty-four hours in the Baghdad bathroom stall. …

Just as I accepted the idea that I had been left behind, I heard the outer door of the bathroom rattle. Then there was a knock. I started to yell. “Manal?” It was Yusuf. He must have noticed I was missing… I was so happy to hear his voice… Finally, the bathroom door swung open and Yusuf charged in. I could feel my face grow red as I imagined the sight that greeted him. There I was, my head peering over the bathroom stall, thrilled that I had been saved. Well, partially saved.

“What are you doing?” he asked…

“This door is locked too,” I offered feebly.

Yusuf shook his head as he looked at the bathroom stall. By now Mais, Fadi, and other staff arrived to witness the scene.  I avoided Fadi’s eyes, knowing that he would never let me forget this… I was embarrassed to the core. Here I was developing a centre to empower women, and I was already playing a damsel in distress…

 Princess
From GotGame

The distinction between a humanitarian aid worker, a journalist, a contractor, and a civilian officer in the military were opaque at best among the Iraqi population. Given that the first civilian casualties in Fallujah had turned out to be mercenaries employed by Blackwater Security Consulting, it was no wonder that Iraqis could not differentiate between civilians and soldiers. The Iraqi population was increasingly doubtful of the intentions of international aid workers inside Iraq…

“Yusuf and I have the perfect solution!” Fadi declared… The two of them had decided that the only solution was for them to move in with me in the house in Mansour. Yusuf explained that all attempts to strengthen security could not eliminate the fact that I was a single non-Iraqi woman living alone, the easiest of targets. As they saw it, the equation was simple: if I was willing to risk my life to work inside Iraq, then they were willing to risk their lives by staying by my side 24/7…

I checked to make sure their families were aware of what they were thinking… Women for Women was happy with the arrangement, provided it was clear it was strictly voluntary and being done out of a personal rather than any professional commitment. My parents were not as easy to convince. … Reluctantly, my father agreed it was better than my staying alone. … In any other context, the ideas of a boss living with her staff – a Muslim woman living with male bachelors – would have been scandalous. Yet in the surreal backdrop of Baghdad, it seemed like the natural solution…

 Feminist

From Muslim Men can be Feminists

By the end of summer of 2004, the situation in the streets of Baghdad had deteriorated as much as I ever could imagine. At that point, a hundred international aid workers, contractors, and journalists had been kidnapped, and twenty-three had been killed. And countless Iraqi had died… What I was witnessing was the onset of a major civil war; the nation was being torn apart in its infancy… My dear friend Reema Khalaf endured the trauma of negotiating her teenage son’s ransom and had fled to Dubai the moment he was released. The neighbour across the street… who used to send me freshly baked pastries was not widowed. At every turn the Iraqi families I had become a part of were being ripped apart…

War
from Iraq War – Timeline in Pictures

With the withdrawal of all international aid workers, the primary target of the insurgency became Iraqi civil society itself… Late one April night in Amman, I received the dreaded phone call all of my Iraqi friends got sooner or later… Our dear friend Salah, who had also been one of my drivers, had vanished… Over the next six months, we were sent on numerous wild goose chases…. All the clues led to a dead end…

It had been two years since Salah’s disappearance. Yusuf described how Nagham was packing all of Salah’s winter clothes and taking out his spring wardrobe.

When he asked what she was doing, Nagham responded, “Everything must be in place when Salah returns.”

To this day, no trace of Salah… have been discovered….It is hard to believe that there are thousands like Salah in Iraq…

Family3

Iraqi women struggle to survive as violence claims their men

A few weeks after Salah disappeared, armed gunmen came to Yusuf’s parents home and asked for Yusuf. Fortunately, he was not home. The next day Yusuf’s car windows were broken and his tires were slashed. A death threat was found on the driver’s seat…

Hussein had already been brutally murdered…

Over the past seven years, my most vivid dreams are about my experiences in Iraq. In my dream, I experience Hussein in the same ways I experienced him in life: simple, gentle, and profound… He slaps his hands on his knees, just as he would do when he visited me in my house… His gesture says, “Sitting here is great, but I must be moving on.” Before he leaves he calls out to his three children. Fatima! Ali! Hamza! They come running into the room. I watch as they hug and kiss one another…. In my dream, Hussein and I exchange sincere smiles, albeit smiles of sadness and loss. He turns for one final glance at his children, and hope fills his eyes. Then he is gone…

 Woman1
Iraqi woman crying when talking about her killed husband

THE END

 

Religious writings: normative teachings vs. diverse cultural practices

“When dealing with the Islamic perspective of any topic, there should be a clear distinction between the normative teachings of Islam and the diverse cultural practices among Muslims, which may or may not be consistent with them.”

From Gender Equity in Islam

From One Chinese Muslimah

Core Islam Values

Family Life
The bonds between family is something that is extremely sacred. To illustrate that point the Prophet said that “no sin is more swiftly punished than oppression, and the breaking of family ties.” Also, the nature of the family in Islam is one that allows for everyone their specific roles and rights.

Humility
Often times during the life of Prophet Muhammed he would be sitting in the masjid with his companions. When others would walk in looking for him, they wouldn’t be able to distinguish him from the crowd because, unlike many rulers and kings of the time, the Prophet didn’t dress or speak in a way that was different or above those that were around him.

Generosity
The word for the charity given by Muslims yearly is Zakah and literally speaking, it means to purify and to make grow. These two definitions can be combined to conclude that giving from your wealth, no matter the size or your financial situation will not only purify your soul, but will put blessings in and increase your wealth as well.

Loving Your Neighbor
Islam isn’t just a religion that’s focused on only for one day–it’s a way of life, and because of that so many societal customs are emphasized. One prominent example is the importance of treating your neighbors right, no matter where they come from.

Trustworthiness
Trustworthiness is a trait that’s appreciated in all spectrums of society and is essential in order to promote community cohesiveness.

Holding Your Tongue
The idiom “if you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t say anything at all” spans countless cultures and times, and is an important aspect of Islam as well. Along with trying to speak the truth always, refraining from speaking bad can be just as noble.

Tolerance
As the world seems more to be heading to the extremes, it is important to learn and understand one another. Tolerance is an extremely important concept in Islam, whether it be understanding other races, religions, or customs.

Education
Whether it be seeking Islamic knowledge of secular knowledge, it’s important for Muslims to constantly be absorbing information. Many Muslims scholars throughout history are credited with inventing or discovering ideas that revolutionized the modern world, such as Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi and his work in algebra and the chemist Jabir Ibn Haiyan. Education in Islam is important for the Muslim to seek at all times in life, from the cradle to the grave.

( From Curious About Islam? )

It is important that we study the religious texts in their proper context…

“It is important that we study the religious texts in their proper context. When these texts are not read in their proper textual and historical contexts they are manipulated and distorted. It is true that some Muslims manipulate these verses for their own goals. But this is not only with Islamic texts, it is also true with the texts of other religions. I can quote dozens of verses from the Bible which seem very violent, if taken out from their historical context. These Biblical texts have been used by many violent Jewish and Christian groups. Crusaders used them against Muslims and Jews. Nazis used them against Jews. Recently Serbian Christians used them against Bosnian Muslims.”

(From Islamic Writings)

* * *

From OpEdNews

“Orthodox Christians have often failed to proclaim the severe tension between the use of violence and a life of holiness. Serbia, however, provides a recent example of the church opposing the abuse of the faith in support of war. In the midst of the Bosnian civil war, Patriarch Pavle proclaimed that “the Church must condemn all atrocities that are committed, no matter what the faith or origin of the person committing them may be. No sin committed by one person justifies a sin committed by another. We will all face the Last Judgment together where each of us must answer for his sins. No one can justify his sins by saying someone else is guilty of a crime.” The Serbian bishops declared that “The way of nonviolence and cooperation is the only way blessed by God.” They also added the following petition to the Liturgy: “For all those who commit injustice against their neighbours, whether by causing sorrow to orphans, spilling innocent blood or by returning hatred for hatred, that God will grant them repentance, enlighten their minds and their hearts and illumine their souls with the light of love even toward their enemies, let us pray to the Lord.”

(From In Communion)

“I want to assure you that we Muslims also do not hate non-Muslims, be they Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhist or followers of any religion or no religion. Our religion does not allow killing any innocent person regardless of his or her religion. The life of all human beings is sacrosanct according to the teachings of the Qur’an and the guidance of our blessed Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him and upon all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah. The Qur’an says about the prohibition of murder:”

(From Does the Qur’an teaches violence?)

“The Qur’an repeatedly emphasizes that defensive war — fighting to protect oneself against invading enemies — is the only kind of combat sanctioned (2:190 – 191). In numerous other examples, it teaches that the use of force should be a last resort (2:192, 4:90); that normal relations between peoples, nations and states, whether Muslim or not, should be peaceful (49:13); that necessary wars must be limited in time and space (2:190); that maximum effort must be applied at all times to advance the cause of peace (10:25); that whatever means are undertaken to work for peace during a conflict (such as mediation and arbitration) must be attempted over and over again until resolution is achieved (8:61); that freedom of religion must be granted to every one (2:256), and so on.”

(From Does the Qur’an sanction violence )