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Sunday, January 17, 1999 Published at 15:06 GMT


Images of Islam?



Why are relations between the West and Islam at such a low ebb? This week's Newstalk asked you whether terms like jihad, fundamentalist and fatwa are used too freely by the Western media? And does the West need to do more to understand Islam? Your comments are published on the page below together with audio extracts

Our online debate is still going on. If you want to have your say, go the form at the bottom of this page.

To read more about the issue, click here.

Or click here to read the reaction throughout the week.

You can also watch the full programme in real video.


Islam is a faith of approximately one billion people on this Earth, the majority of whom do not live in the Middle East, nor carry guns and call for a jihad against the West
Aliya Shariff, Canada


John Unwin
The world of Islam needs to open its doors to Western civilisation.
John Unwin, UK

What most of the population in the West hears is what the media wants them to hear, what the media knows will sell. In this way they only see and hear part of the whole story, an example is the "purdah" (veil) in Islam. The west interprets it as oppression of women's rights by forcing them to cover themselves when in actuality women are required to wear them so that men do no look at women and admire them for their beauty. It is there to repress sexual thoughts plus it there to treat women with respect.
Shariq Ashfaq, United States

The way women are treated in all Islamic countries is horrific in the twentieth century.
Terry George, Australia

People assume that what they hear about Islam is true. I think it is time we started finding out more. To quote the words of the prophet, "To acquire knowledge is the duty of every man and woman".
Asma Wajahat, Pakistan

My concern with Islam, particularly as practiced by fundamentalists, is the severe treatment of women. Any group or religion which does not recognize the total and absolute equality of women slows the progress of humans.
Mary Martin DeLancy Taipei, Taiway

If you look at the present world there is no Islamic country which is living in peace. They always try to mix the state with religion. They don't allow other religions to practice into their territory. At the same time they spread terrorism into the neighbouring country.
Sanjay Kumar Singh, Singapore

The Western media chooses to give airtime to the tiny minority of Muslims who provide entertaining sound-bites about killing people for Islam. Muslims do publicly and frequently condemn terrorism, but they do not make headlines by doing so. Nor do the 1.5 billion Muslims who don't engage in or condone terrorism.
Yusuf Bey, United States


Abid Siddiq
Westerners judge Mulims by their own rules
Abid Siddiq, Pakistan

The world should protect itself against Islam. We cannot trust Muslims, their purpose is to conquer the world.
Karen Daly, Canada

We have been bombarded with images of Islamic Fundamentalism since the early 70s. I can remember reading articles in Time and the local newspaper here, objectively explaining the main points of Islam and then placing the articles under headlines that read: The Islamic Threat.
Sven Divay, Winnepeg, Canada


Sulaiman Al-Ruhar
We (Muslims) are people who are ready to die for our land, our money, and our resources.
Sulaiman Al-Ruhar, Iraq

What is there to understand when one person kills another in cold blood? Whether it is Christian against Christian in Northern Ireland or Muslim against Muslim in Iraq or other excuses for brutal murder around the world. For God's/Allah's sake, this is not religion.
Mike Dimery, UK

No westerner will have any idea about our feelings until the day they turn on their TV's and see their people, young children being killed by soldiers while they are fighting for their own land and freedom.
Farouk Sa'eed, Nigeria

International forums should play an influential role in protecting the rights of Muslims within a balanced formula of mutual respect of faiths and interests.
Ahmad Shikara, New Zealand

I'm sorry to say that the media is quite too free with use of words as Gihad, fatwa etc. I'd like the people to know that there are 100 times more Muslims who are moderate. I'm no exception, I act upon Allah's words in the holy Koran which says "I have my religion, you have your religion".
Farouk Mogheth, Prague


Charlene Rajendran
The notion that the West needs to do more to understand Islam is flawed. There are Muslims in the West as well as the East. How much Muslims in the East and West differ is perhaps a more salient question.

There is also a need to re-consider the notion that religion and politics are separate. In my view they are not. The two deal primarily with issues of power and how to organise people in order to maximise this. Whilst we believe some things are sacred and others secular, the defining line is drawn for convenience more than real conviction.
Charlene Rajendran, Malaysia

Does the Islamic world look at terrorist groups like the KKK or the order, and think about them as examples of the west and Christianity?
Khaled, Canada

I think that the UK is a leader in the way that it accepts different cultures and religions. Why are Muslims in the UK asking for more rights when they have as much right as anyone else. After living in a Muslim country for a few years where the Christian community was denounced, I feel that Britain must realise its major priorities, being a Christian country.
Tristan Walker, Portugal

Since the collapse of communism, Islam has been portrayed as the principal threat to the dominance of western values and traditions. But how can one ignore the values of a people who stretch from Morocco to the tip of Indonesia, from the Balkans in the North to South Africa in the South?
Anonymous

Will the same Muslims who plea for fair treatment in Britain campaign with equal passion to the governments of Islamic states for freedom of religion in Islamic countries? What about the small number of Christians who exist in any of the Islamic states? Do they have freedom of speech to talk about their faith to Muslims?
Peter Barraclough, UK

Muslims need to explain themselves better to the West. Too many Muslims are far too busy in internal conflicts to think of their duty towards clarifying the name of Islam. We need more Muslims in the media to give more balanced reporting of what goes on in the Muslim world.
Camilia and Ehab Jaber, Cyprus

As a Christian who has lived in the Middle East for 10 years, I find the majority of the people in the West are completely ignorant about Islam's true teachings. Most confuse religion with culture, i.e. people believe that women cannot drive cars in Saudi Arabia because the religion forbids it or that female infants are murdered in Asia because of religion. Most of the things the West read about in the press which are linked to Islam are in fact completely against Islamic teachings.
Ada, United Arab Emirates

A lot of misunderstanding in the West about Islam seems to be related to the status of Muslim women. Being a Muslim woman myself, I am horrified at the accusations hurled at Islam because they're so different from what I've seen at home. I am fiercely proud of my Muslim identity and as soon as people see me, they know I'm a Muslim.
Asma Wajahat, Pakistan


Most of the misconceptions about Islam are spread by the western media, including the BBC.After the collapse of the Soviet Union, opinion leaders in the west needed a bogeyman to replace communism. They found one readily in Islam.
Eddy Simba, Gambia

Just because Saddam Hussein & Osama Bin Laden will stand up against the might of the west, to fight for something they believe in, you cannot think that the whole Muslim community is extremist.
H Sharief, USA

The silent majority of Muslims must speak up. I do not believe that the great majority of Muslims, given free access to information and unimpeded expression of their views, would condone the slaughter of innocent people all over the world.
Vasant M. Joshi, USA

The West definitely needs to learn and do more to understand Islam. It is a religion that emphasises freedom of religion rights, justice for all, and that no person is guilty by association. Islam makes it clear that Muslims should always abide by the laws of the nation in which they reside, and no matter how grievous and painful the matter at hand, no Muslim has the right to bypass the laws and take matters to his own hands. Islam has said that people of all religions have the right to practice their religion and a duty to defend minorities from dangers inside and outside of the borders. The Western media needs to give Islamic scholars, and not fanatics, more exposure so people in the western world will come to realise the true nature of Islam.
Loay A. Al-Kibsi, Yemen

Islam does not propagate oppression, injustice, terrorism, but does outline one very clear principle: Defend oneself if attacked.
Kudan Sabotono, Indonesia

Islam needs to be understood by west in the same way as the free world, modern education and tolerance need to be understood by Islam. Islam practised in reality is slowly learning to live with all others in peace. However there are some who do not want to come out of the book and they are the ones who need to change. Modern education alone will teach understanding and tolerance. An introvert who refuses to come out of any religious book is a hindrance to it.
Surinder Puri, USA

The problem with Islam is that it is archaic, uncompromising, and demeaning to its followers. That said, it is the only form of "civilized" discipline (social and moral) that millions of people throughout the world know. And while it may be appropriate, even necessary, in Afghanistan, it is totally out of place in liberal western democracies.
Mark M. Newdick, USA

Islam does not allow for any reform. It does mandate that the world belongs to the Muslims. The Muslim prophet was himself involved in torture and execution including that of old women. Slavery remains legal in Islam and women are not individuals but property. Kafirs are fair game for harvesting and that is 'lawful'. Thank God for the Secular West as a bulwark for free thought and individual freedom.
JS, USA

We need only look at the example of the USA and how they manipulate the news to justify their aggression wherever it be in the world. When Baruch Goldstein murdered Muslim worshippers as they prayed, the western media never once labelled him a terrorist. The media has decided terrorism is the exclusive preserve of Muslims and are whipping up a frenzy of hatred against Muslims. Western TV is playing the game of colonialisation by remote control.
Arshad Sharif, UK

I think that the media is unfairly and continuously picturing Muslims as intolerant people who all engage or support terrorist activities. This is absolutely untrue and must stop. Bin laden does not represent Islam. Islam does not advocate violence against innocent people.
Cisman Mohamud, Finland

Islam is not just a religion - it is a way of life. Its religious teachings are full of political directives. The west is secular - separating religion from politics but Islam and Muslims cannot do this. The west (and indeed so called "Muslim" countries) should accept this and move forward.
Mike Allan / Hamzah Abdullah (Revert), England

The unfortunate reality is that the West has totally confused if not amalgamated religion with heinous acts of terrorism. What is more unfortunate is that the media has added more fuel to the fire by focusing on the cowardly acts of a minority and generalizing that to be a basic tenet of Islam. How many times have we heard of Hindu Terrorism, or Christian terrorism, despite the fact that such acts are committed on a regular basis by those who claim to belong to those faiths?
Kamrul Islam, Canada

A lot of Muslim apologists tend to play down the role of violence in Islam. Many of these people that are termed extremists actually have a lot of grass-root support among so called regular (normal) Muslims. This is what guarantees their survival and effectiveness. I grew up in northern Nigeria and the burning of churches and killing of Christians was very popular among Muslims. This was in contrast to the relative peace and tranquility in which the Muslims in the predominantly christian south lived. There seems to be some kind of injunction to fight and kill in the Islamic religion.
Beatus Inikori, Baton Rouge, USA

People like JS, USA need to study a religion before they can make accusations, Islam does allow reform, and is a very compromising and practical religion. Its birth marked the abolition of salvery, the burial of girls, and gave women rights that the west (USA) realized as late as the 1960's. Again the ignorance needs to be addresses and the religion should be separated from the culture that people misunderstand to be Islam. Most importantly, I think anyone in the West criticising Islam's spread need to 1. learn in which ways Muslims are commanded to spread, which in noplace includes killing and 2. Realize what the CRUSADERS did for Vhristianity, and what the Catholic Church does with its worshippers. It is appauling to find out hidden Jewish rituals.
But most importantly, I think the Muslims of the world need to read each article and be ashamed that we have allowed the west to portray us like this by not depicting our religion correctly. Muslims, you set the example that the west sees and uses to stereotype against.
Kurram, USA

Muslims do have a point when they accuse the Western press of being anti-Islamic, but they never seem to realise that this is partly their own fault; many prefer conspiracy theories. The British public is largely in favour of Bosnians and Albanians against their Serb oppressors and Palestinians (though not Hamas) against Israel. We are not simply anti-Muslim. But if Muslims insist on turning men like Saddam, a mass-murderer of his own people and invader of his neighbours, into heroes solely because they are now anti-Western, then they will never be "understood" by the West. Islam will only gain a better image when its adherents choose more worthy heroes, such as Khatemi in Iran, and begin to allow the voices of their minorities and women to be heard.
Leo Goode, London

What is there in the Koran or Islam that causes incitement to the crazy actions of those worldwide who can blow up planes, buildings, kill and kidnap innocent people from Algeria to the Philippines, to Israel, to South Africa to Yemen and many places in between.? All of this in the name of Allah!!! Where are the "moderate Muslims that should be condemning these crazy people? You never hear from them. Why?
John, China

Whenever the political interests (which are most of the time illegal, and contradict with the interests of the Islamic societies) of the western countries are threatens the opposite side is a terrorist. We have seen that in the case of the Palestinians who basically are Muslims and Christians but they resisted the Israeli (The Western spoiled baby) occupation. Iran once was the American alley in the gulf area then the same country was labeled as a terror state, Iraq as a friend (to the west) country got its arms from the west, now all kinds of descriptions are used to justify the aggression on it, the list is never ended. However, the gulf Sheiks in Saudi and Kuwait are not terrorists (although they are Islamic societies) simply because they oppose the west in any political issue. On the contrary, we see that these states are helping the west in securing their illegal interests in the whole world. So, we can conclude by saying that the political elite in the west (with the help of and through the media)is using the religion issue to manipulate and exploit the people in order to use then in the process of aggression and colonization.
Imuna, Occupied Palestine

More than 500 churches had been attacked/turndown/burnt in Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest Moslem population in the World. Any comment?
Abdurrahman, Magelang, Indonesia

Those so called liberated women in the west before they criticize women in Islam they should look at the Bible and find out what Bible say about womens rights! Sleeping with many men before or after marry(Sounds like prostitute) displaying half naked body to the public or posing naked on the page of xxx magazine or becomig a porno star(!!!),if these things makes women free in the West then I don't think so we Muslim women need that kind of freedom. I should tell those so called liberated women in West, ask your men to respect your minds(Remember! beside your body you also have a mind) and also ask them not to use womens body as a business commodity. Then come to us and give us your big lecture. Thank you.
Roksana Reza, U.S.A.

The word "Islam" in Arabic derives from "Silm" meaning peace. Islam mandates peace for all who seek peace. Not capitulation.
Islam also mandates "Jihad", meaning "to struggle", against all injustice. Starting with the injustice of one against one's self in the form of denying Allah and his effect in one's life. Islam also mandates struggle against the injustice that one does to others in the form of occupation, manipulation, and out right colonialization.
Islam treats ladies as humans to be admired for who they are rather than sexual toys to be admired for their physical attributes. Islam declares that men and women are equal, but different. They are complementary but not interchangeable.
Islam today holds the most pristine system of morals. The west can benefit a great deal from studying the true Islam. If you are going to study, then study "Islam", not the different interpretations of the different cultures. Most of these interpretations have been misguided by the hands of those who colonized these cultures in the past.
Bassel Soudan, Santa Clara, USA

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