It's best to simply delete chain letters. Once in awhile I don't. This week I read one SO offensive, I felt I had no choice but to reply to the sender (and to everyone else who I could find who'd received it). Here's my reply to "What is an infidel?"
As you might imagine, for somebody as active on the internet as I am, I get a lot of email. Some of it is chain letters, and so most of them I don't read.
But I got one this past week that was so offensive, so entirely untrue, that I thought I'd shoot a quick message back to everyone who I saw copied on it to refute it. Because it was, frankly, despicable.
The letter in question was an explanation of the Muslim faith as presented by Rick Mathes, Executive Director of Mission Gate Prison ministry. As near as I could tell, it's really an editorial that Rick actually wrote. There's scarcely another word of it that I believe is actually true.
According to Mathes, while attending religious tolerance training as part of his prison security clearance curriculum, he questioned a Muslim Imam and got to the "truth" of Muslim beliefs. The only problem is that almost nothing he says about those beliefs is accurate.
For one, Islam is quite a bit like Christianity in that there are a huge variety of beliefs on a wide variety of topics. Some Christians do not gamble and do not touch alcohol, other Christians do both... in a tent... on the church's lawn... to raise money for the church. Likewise, some Muslims believe that only Muslims should enter the holiest sites in their religion, while many others would have no problem with allowing non-believers, and even westerners access to places like Mecca & Madea.
As for the specifics of this letter, though, let me just hit a few highlights. While the terribly twisted and evil followers of the clerics behind groups like al-Qaeda speak of "jihad" as a holy war against non-believers, the word "jihad" actually means "struggle." The vast majority of Muslims are upset the word has been co-opted in this way, and regardless do NOT see themselves as engaged in any sort of war with non-believers. What's more, almost NO Muslim imam would claim to have issued commands to his flock to go to war with non-believers, Islam is every bit as much a religion of peace as Christianity. But maybe that's the problem.
Many in the United States are under the false impression that the majority of Christians believe that "God Hates Fags." Ours is the religion that has historically preached from pulpits in defense of african slavery, of banning miscegenation (inter-racial marriages), and used Biblical texts to do so without irony. Christians have burned crosses on front lawns, have burned other churches, and have warred with each other in ways both subtle, and in the case of Northern Ireland, not so subtle.
If you are offended at the idea that someone might tell you that you believe that "God Hates Fags." If you are offended at the idea that Christians are racist. Know that the average Muslim is every bit as offended to hear their faith painted that way.
Last year, a man burst into a Sikh Temple and shot 13 people, killing six. He did it because he was led to believe that Muslims hate America and want to kill non-believers (and he was too stupid to understand that Sikhs aren't Muslims). Imagine the fallout if someone broke into a church and started shooting because he'd heard that Christians hated gay people. Spreading around the beliefs of a fringe few as though they are the beliefs of the whole could cause just that.
So next time, think twice before forwarding on trash like this message.
And if you sent this message on yourself, feel free to also send on this rebuttal.