By Rahsaan Thomas
The association of Islam with the massacres committed in Paris and San Bernardino has lead to a backlash against Muslims. Late last year, a young man threw a Molotov cocktail at a mosque in California. Muslim women are scared to wear their hijab (Islamic head covering) for fear of being accosted. Donald Trump wants all Muslims registered in a database.
A panel of Muslims housed inside San Quentin State Prison met over several days to discuss how some people view and label Muslims.
Al-Amin Dawud McAdoo said that the massacres were not Islamic acts.
“In the Qur’an, Allah teaches, ‘If anyone kills an innocent soul, it is as if he had killed all humankind,’” he said, quoting from 5:32.
Coulson agreed. “I can say with a certainty, their heinous actions were not of Islam. Islam equals peace. It is a complete way of life, of peace, self-surrender, submission. These definitions can not be equated to extremism, terrorism or murder.”
Before the discussion started, the Muslims said the prayer, Al-’Asr (“Time Through the Ages” Holy Qur’an chapter 103) to set the tone that everything they said would be the will of God.
Da’ud L. Coulson Sr., McAdoo, John “Yahya” Johnson and Askari Johnson were some of the panel members.
All of the panelists shared that Islam is a source of peace in their lives.
A. Johnson said his faith in Islam helped him break away from drug addiction. “Instead of looking for peace from the trauma in my life through drugs, I found it in Allah,” he said.
“Intoxicants and gambling … are an abomination – of Satan’s handiwork; eschew such (abominations), that you may prosper,” he added quoting the Qur’an. (5:90)
“Islam taught me to repel evil with that which is good,” said Coulson. (HQ 23:96)
He quoted from the Qur’an again, adding, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.” (5:8)
The group discussed how the prophet Muhammad taught that all Muslims have a duty to treat their neighbors well.
“One whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil” is not a believer, said Coulson, “He will not enter Jannah (Heaven) whose neighbor is not secure from his wrongful conduct.”
The panel also discussed contradictions in people’s prejudiced beliefs about Islam.
A. Johnson said, “If you believe what the couple in San Bernardino did was wrong (and it was) why would you then choose to inflict that same hurt and pain on innocent Muslims?”
“Yahya” Johnson said, “I think it’s extremely unfair to label all Muslims ‘terrorist’ for the actions of a few. There are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and the majority are peaceful.”
Coulson added, “Unfortunately, this tragedy has struck a blow to the Muslim community and has undoubtedly added fuel to the fire of the naysayers of Islam. I am deeply saddened by this event and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families as with the families of the perpetrators and the entire community.”
Everyone on the panel expressed their sympathy for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
Then the discussion turned to solutions to stop the tide of hatred towards Muslims based on the misconception of what Islam represents.
“Yahya” Johnson pointed out that the extremist groups attack and kill more Muslims than anyone else. “Seeing Muslims as victims in this crisis will help people see that Muslims in general do not support what is occurring in the name of Islam,” he said.
Coulson sees education in Islam as the key. “I implore the Muslim community and the people at large to educate themselves to true Islam and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad,” he said.
A. Johnson agreed, adding that the best form of education would be, “in an open dialogue with righteously learned Islamic scholars in an effort to learn about what Islam is and who the Muslims are.”
Coulson said he is grateful to all those who have come out in support of Islam, including the Richmond Community, the San Quentin chaplains, President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and non-Muslim women who have donned the hijab in support of Muslim women.