Hollywood veteran Liam Neeson says he wants to be Muslim
Hollywood veteran Liam Neeson, raised a Catholic, has announced that he is considering becoming a Muslim.
The Schindler’s List star told the Sun that, while filming in Istanbul recently, the Islamic call to prayer, Adhaan, “got into his spirit”. (“Adhaan” or “Azaan” is rendered five times day as a proclamation of prayer time, just ahead of namaaz. It has a uniquely mellifluous and haunting ring to it.)
The actor’s desire to be a Muslim doesn’t per se so much excite me as the possibility of an individual to view Islam in a different light, despite everything, which should tell us something.
Whatever your opinion of Islam, a good way of knowing it comes from exploring the so-called Muslim world. The worst way is by “googling” Islam on your desktop.
There is a great deal of confusion about what Islam is and isn’t. I have always believed that negative stereotypes associated with Islam will get shaken every once in a while, especially when people discover it first hand, as it is normally practised and exists in the lives of millions.
On filming in Istanbul, Neeson told the Sun: “The call to prayer happens five times a day, and for the first week, it drives you crazy, and then it just gets into your spirit, and it’s the most beautiful, beautiful thing… There are 4,000 mosques in the city. Some are just stunning, and it really makes me think about becoming a Muslim.” Click here
This might seem odd, given that Islam’s image is that of not just of a violent faith, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks, but also of a “regressive” system at clash with modernity and everything that falls within the framework of political liberalism.
Mr. Neeson’s spiritual tryst with Islam set off global attention, with its wide coverage from the Irish Central magazine to the Huffington Post.
The image of Islam as a violent faith did not begin with 9/11. It took roots in the western world ever since the Crusades, even though Christianity had a worse record of tolerance at the time.
The continuing hostility among many Muslims towards western values, which appear to them as emblems of hegemony, explains why prejudices against Islam seemed to have stuck on. The global jihad has of course reinforced the idea of Islam as an abetter of violence.
Some Muslims have undoubtedly taken to violence, just like many others across all religions.
Hilter killed six million Jews. Certainly more than a million died under the ruthless orders of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge party in the latter half of the 1970s. Stalin, Mao and Hideki Tojo, Japan’s 40th Prime Minister who triggered the Pearl harbour bombings, all have the blood of millions on their hands. From Rwanda to Dafur, violence has wiped out whole populations.
Religious prejudice, nationalism, racism, cults and ideologies have motivated abominable mass extermination right from ancient times down to the 1400 years we call the “modern era”.
In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy has often proclaimed violence: “But thou shalt utterly destroy them – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – as the LORD your God has commanded you” (20:17).
Long before the Holocaust unfolded, Jews faced two expulsions from Rome itself. (Blood and Soil A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur, Yale 2007).
We are currently in a phase of intermittent violent history where Islam has been linked to violence. Even so, viewed as a political system, it has claimed far fewer lives than the World Wars or Communism itself.
So, the whole point is, we need a balanced view of Islam to be able to put the so-called “Islamic terror” in perspective.
Mr Neeson’s views on Islam prove that it will take a little more effort to understand Islam and what it is all about.
Islam is more than what Internet searches will throw up and reading up a few things is not enough to understand it. Millions of law-abiding people who follow it best reflect its true spirit.
Alongside the ugly face of global jihad, Islam also is about beauty, art, architecture and civilisation.
From Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet Street across the Bosphorous to Morocco’s Casablanca, my travels in the so-called Muslim world tell me that bin Laden is not Islam.