Islam is an ideology and Muslims are people.

Never get confused

You can try to act like you’re innocent… and you can try and f..k me, but guess what? You will never ever stop me, my Christianity, from rising above this Sharia law!” Screamed a guy clearly mad with rage to an Arab family vacationing on a Texas beach. The screamer was escorted out and subsequently charged with a hate crime but not before the video went viral. This incident, among others, demonstrates the growing intolerance against the Muslims across the country. Shame on you, Sir.

On the other hand, Islam apologists, who fill the airways pretending as if nothing is wrong with the current form of Islamic ideology. They claim that all the terrorist activities, ISIS, beheadings, murdering of atheists and other atrocities, none of it has anything to do with Islam! Furthermore, they assure us that the perpetrators are not real Muslims, even though the terrorists themselves shouting loud and clear that they are the true followers of Islam. Shame on you, all.

Both of these groups are doing more harm than good not only to Islam and Muslims but to the rest of the general populace as well.

As far religion is concerned, what it WAS is less relevant than what it IS now. Debating on which religious text has more violence in it, and whose religion killed more people in the past is less important than understanding which religion is promoting intolerance and violence. Certain sects of Islam are showing the signs of cult like behavior. Backed by Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, which promotes an ultraconservative form of Islam, magnified the ugly underbelly of Islam. Its iron grip on the Islamic societies ranging from Saudi to Somalia to Indonesia is suffocating the ordinary Muslims while emboldening the religious fundamentalists.

To get an perspective on how conservative that these societies have become over the years, consider this, in 1958 when Muslim Brotherhood, demanded all Muslim women should wear Hijab (a veil covering their head and chest) not only the Egyptian leader Nasser laughed at this absurd suggestion. Look at it now. Hijab became the de-facto symbol of identity of Islamic women. Once an oppressive symbol — now an identity mark. It’s regressive.

This might just sound like a mild issue. But the underlying factors forcing women to wear Hijab are also responsible for the other horrific acts committed by terrorists as well. Blowing up Buddhist statues in Afghanistan by Taliban, widespread destruction of antique statues and monuments in Iraq and Syria, the beheadings, the genocide of Yazidi and subjugating their women to inhumane sexual slavery, and the mass killings of the Muslims belonging to other sects are some of the few atrocities unleashed by the ISIS and their desire to establish caliphate. These are the result of years of indoctrination of intolerance and religious bigotry fed by Wahhabists and other fundamentalists.

Equating ordinary Muslims with terrorists is not only wrong but also counterproductive.

Apologists should stop saying that terrorists are not Muslims and they do not represent Islam. As Salmon Rushdie pointed out, “If everybody engaged in acts of Islamic terrorism says that they’re doing it in the name of Islam, who are we to say they’re not? I mean now of course what they mean by Islam might well not be what most Muslims mean by Islam. But it’s still a form of Islam and it’s a form of Islam that’s become unbelievably powerful in the last 25 and 30 years.”

Instead, we all should encourage the reformers, who are risking their lives to bring out positive changes. Reject the apologists who wants maintain the status quo and put a lid on the reformation. Both US and Europe should pressure Saudis to stop supporting and exporting the fundamentalist ideology emanating from the Kingdom.

Muslims also should learn not to be overly sensitive about their religion. A cartoon depiction of their prophet should not lead to violent protests, death threats, and destruction. All religions are being continuously mocked at one point or another. Part of being in a democracy and hall of mark of modern society is that the citizens have a right to make fun of religion, politics or on any other issues and also have a right to protest. Both are equal and fundamental.