Eight years after the tragic events of 9/11, most Americans still know nothing about Islam. Moreover, our political leaders now refrain from even associating terrorism with Islamic radicals at all. To commemorate 9/11, President Obama spoke wistfully at a memorial service at the Pentagon. He called Americans “to serve our communities, to strengthen our country and to better our world.” He never once made mention of Islam, the religion Obama had praised in his White House Ramadan dinner, a dinner called to “celebrate a great religion, and its commitment to justice and progress.”
Despite the President's efforts to re-educate Americans on Islam, research shows that few of us actually know anything about the alleged “religion of peace.” One would think (and hope) that after the events of 9/11, Americans would have seized the opportunity to examine the movement that spawned such heinous acts of terror. On that momentous day, I realized my own gaping lack of knowledge regarding the world's second largest religion. I had studied Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity, but knew noting about Islam. In the years since 9/11, I have now read the Koran, studied biographies of Mohammed, reviewed histories of Islam, and interviewed scholars of Islam. I wrongly assumed that other Americans were doing the same self-education.
The recent Pew Forum survey regarding how religions are perceived n America reveals some ugly facts about our ignorance. Only four out of ten Americans could correctly answer two basic questions about Islam:
1) What is the Muslim name for God?
2) What is the name of the Islamic holy text?
In other words, 60% of Americans know absolutely nothing about Islam. That kind of widespread ignorance is shameful and deplorable. Acts of terror murder more than 3000 Americans and set off a war that continues to this day; yet the average American chooses not to examine any of the underlying philosophy that birthed the horrors.
Formerly, my training in a politically correct United Methodist theology school had taught me that all religions are basically the same, that all lead to God, and that all have the same essential core teachings. After the past eight years of research, I am embarrassed at the paucity of education I received.