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Islam and the West: Myth and Misunderstanding

Journalist M.J. Akbar is also an author and has been a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution since April 2007.

Journalist M.J. Akbar is also an author and has been a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution since April 2007.

NEW YORK, March, 25, 2009 - In an effort to redefine the boundaries of Islam as a religion and nationhood, two prominent journalists and experts in the field of contemporary Islamic texts urged 'westerners' not to hold the Koran accountable for the actions of the Muslim people.

Indian journalist M.J. Akbar and Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow Simon Tay also stressed the need for a new law in order to transform the current jurisdiction seen as the ‘Muslim states’ into a more lenient and democratic one.

Addressing people who blame Islam for extremism, Akbar says, “Why do you blame Islam for the sins of the Muslims? We don’t go around blaming Christianity for Hitler or indeed the Roman Catholic Church for Mussolini… its wrong.” Akbar pointed out that the Koran actually emphasizes the concept of brotherhood instead of nationhood and a sense of utter tolerance to other religions. He quoted an excerpt from the Holy Text, that expresses this concept: “Your religion for you and my religion for me."

To achieve the title of a modern nation-state, Akbar said gender equality, education and a basic sense of democracy in the constitution would aid in making these countries more "civilized" and at par with the US, which he believes has rightfully achieved this title. “You cannot rule as a dictator even if you’re a king” he says.

Finally, in order to bridge the two different yet colliding worlds of Islam and the West,  Akbar stressed the need to attain a basic platform for the two to converge and deliver peace. "It [misunderstanding between Islam and the West] destroys something more important than a relationship of either trade or commerce or even a martial relationship. It destroys understanding ... Peace cannot come without understanding, understanding cannot come without dialogue and dialogue is impossible unless you and I are reading from the same page.”

Reported by Poornima Vuppuluri