By Hashim Nasser
Since the beginning of human civilization we have had religion to explain the unexplainable; but from the moment of its inception religion has also been used to justify terrible things. The Mesopotamians, the first societies to use writing, warred with each other for centuries, believing their rulers had divine connections to the god of their respective city. This has been a common trend throughout human history, where religion is used as a validation for violence, subjugation, and other horrible actions.
Islam today is often used as an exception to a rule of religions being peaceful, but the truth is that Islam is not an exception to the rule because this rule does not make any sense to begin with. A religion cannot really be anything itself, and most cannot be ‘peaceful’ (save some religions such as Jainism which teach absolute non-violence and harmlessness). Religions can be used in any way their followers see fit, and we as a society too often conflate the actions of a religion’s followers to the religion itself. The vast majority of religions, and most certainly the more popular ones, have been used to rationalize horrific atrocities throughout their existence.
The most common religion in the world is Christianity. Today it seems to have a good ‘image’ in popular media, and as we know media representation greatly affects the public’s perception about any particular issue. But let us not forget that Christianity, perhaps more than any other religion in human history, has been used as a justification for violence; an image that it has shed in modern times and in a way passed down to Islam. To this day it is still used as a justification for violence; in Uganda homosexuals are killed and homosexual women are often raped. Abortion doctors are killed or abortion clinics are bombed all over the world including in the USA in the name of Christianity.
The goal of my project was to break the stereotype of Islam as a violent, sexist, barbaric religion. Religions have always been used by bad people to excuse actions that in all other scenarios would be considered immoral. To do this I made a collage on a foam board combining a Christian cross and a star and crescent, which has more recently become associated with Islam. I then used symbols of atrocities that were committed in the name of both of these religions. For Christianity I chose to represent the Christian defense for slavery in Europe and America (chained man), the persecution and killing of dissenters and people they believed to be evil or ‘witches’ (burning woman), the persecution of blacks which included lynching innocent black people in America (Ku Klux Klan member), and finally the crusades which were among the largest holy wars in history and killed countless innocent people (Templar shield). For Islam I chose to represent the two largest evils done in the name of Islam: the subjugation of women in countries like Saudi Arabia (woman in burqa) and terrorism/extremist violence (ISIS flag, ISIS soldier, Twin Towers). I then painted strong colors above and the word ‘transcend’ in the middle.
My message is that only by confronting and educating ourselves on these issues can we understand that bad people will always need an excuse for what they do, but we can recognize it and deny them that excuse. We can move above, or ‘transcend’ the long history of religious barbarisms and truly make all religions, not just Islam, a force for peace in the world through our own actions. While Islam may be the most in need of a reformation, that does not mean it is the only religion in need of one.
I was inspired to do this style of collage after seeing Mohammed Hindash’s work at FN Galleries.
Short Bio: I’m studying Finance and am now in my senior year at AUD. I am Canadian (from Toronto), but I am ethnically Palestinian. I grew up with a Muslim father and Christian mother so I feel I have a deep understanding of both religions on a personal level.
Kelsos. "Victims Of The Christian Faith." Christian Atrocities. Truth Be Known, n.d. Web. 06 June 2015.
Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. "Why Islam Needs a Reformation." WSJ. Wall Street Journal, 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 07 June 2015.