In the last few weeks I have been staying up late at the computer, my phone has been buzzing at all times of the day and night, and I have been reading Qu’ran more than usual.
The Metropolitan Police revealed details of the suspect they have detained in relation to the Westminster attack in London yesterday.
When I read that he was originally from Sudan I was surprised: most Sudanese people I know couldn’t be bothered to carry out a terror attack – not that any of them have the inclination.
You see, the pace of life in Sudan is slow – people don’t tend to rush around when daytime temperatures routinely exceed 40°C.
But Sudan is a Muslim country, so they must be terrorists right?
Except, if you were to compare Sudan to somewhere like Saudi Arabia you might not realise they were Muslims at all. For example, there are no laws against women driving, going out without a male chaperone or wearing their hair out.
Most women do wear the hijab by choice, but many – especially younger women – do not. And nobody bats an eye. The people enjoy music and dancing and singing as much as anyone in Britain, if not more.
Sudan is a pretty relaxing place
I once played cards and drank cardamom-spiced coffee late into the night, at one of the many busting cafes on banks of the River Nile in Khartoum, and honestly I cannot think of anywhere I have felt more at peace.
It seems to me that whatever caused this man to attack Parliament yesterday, it probably has more to do with his experiences since coming to Britain, than anything at all to do with Sudan.
If you read any criticism of Islam online, especially in the alt-right corners of the internet, it won’t be long before you come across the phrase “death cult” in the comments boxes. There will probably be something about paedophile gangs, domestic abuse and beheadings as well any number of other charges; if a Muslim has ever done something bad, the rest of us will be guilty of the same, or at the very least, dismissed as enablers.
Now, of course, this point of view is ridiculous and any reasonable person will recognise that these attacks are such wild generalisations and misrepresentations as to have no relevance to the argument. Unfortunately, there are lots of unreasonable people in the world.
The reality is, as always, very different. Islam does not just accept science, it encourages it.
In the middle ages, when Europe had forgotten many of the advances brought by the Roman empire, science in the Islamic world was flourishing. The early Islamic scholars were often also scientists and were responsible for countless advances, many of which we still use today. The one that all school children know is algebra (al-jabr, or “reunion of broken parts), but many of others are more surprising. Rather than list them all here, just go to the Wikipaedia page: Science in the medieval Islamic world. The scope of their enquiry literally ranges from astronomy to zoology.
Modern Islam has not lost it’s respect for science, and educational achivement is highly prized by Muslim parents. Just look how many Muslims are doctors, pharmacists, engineers and architects.
Modern Islam has no problem with evolution or the Big Bang. I have spoken to many scholars who think that there is alien life, and point to the fact that Allah is sometimes referred to as the “creator of worlds”, pleural.
Muslims believe that we were all created with free, enquiring minds, and that when we spend time leaning about the true nature of the world around us, rather than limit the space for Allah to exist, we make it bigger.