Muslims are not all bad people!
The title of this short article is a recent quote from the England cricket Moeen Ali and not something that we have written ourselves! It is particularly relevant today with the news of the terrible massacre of Muslims in Egypt by fellow Muslims. In fact, the phrase 'fellow Muslims' is not correct because ISIS do not acknowledge any other form of Islam.
Islam is not a unified religion by any means. In some areas of the Indian subcontinent, for example, Muslims worship the locally venerated Hindu gods such as Shitala (the smallpox goddess); some worship holy trees. Arab and Bedouin Muslims in the Holy Land reverence sacred trees which they believe to be sanctified by the saints whose tombs they grow near.
So when someone blames 'Muslims' for a terrorist atrocity we might ask ourselves 'which Muslims?' Using the word 'Muslim' in this context is pretty unhelpful as the war in Syria is, to a large extent, a conflict between incompatible forms of Islam. We can see this by the way ISIS went about the destruction of Shia Muslim shrines.
Orthodox Christians have suffered greatly at the hands of Ottoman Muslims through the centuries; the third Sunday after Pentecost is dedicated to the Martyrs who suffered under the Turkish Yoke. Nevertheless, even though no Christian group has suffered more under Islam, no other Christian group has enjoyed such a close relationship with Muslims as have the Orthodox.
This is not to say that we believe, as do most western Christians, that we worship the 'same God' as Muslims. We do not accept that Mohammed is a true Prophet and we do not accept the Koran therefore we cannot be worshiping the same God.
Having said this, uninformed media attacks on 'Muslims' do affect us. They allow atheists to promote the myth that religions cause all wars – a piece of 'fake news' that is easily disproved. Communism is based on the abolition of religion and led directly to the deaths of between 85 and 100 million people. Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot killed far more people than all religious wars in the history of mankind.
Orthodox Christians and Muslims have managed to live relatively peacefully together for centuries. Older Orthodox Cypriots can remember the times when their Muslim neighbours would baby-sit Christian children during the long Holy Week services. We have had Turkish Cypriots coming to church to light a candle on a particular Saint's day (on the Old Calendar!). This practice had been passed down through the generations, perhaps due to a miracle worked by the Saint or in honour of a Christian ancestor.
It is sad that an Englishman feels the need to explain that not all Muslims are bad people. This is self-evident to us, but perhaps not to many non-religious English people. We know that not all Orthodox Christians are 'good' people. If, when we look in the mirror we see a 'good' person then we are deceived!
We should be able to appreciate that many Muslims are just and tolerant because they follow their conscience which, as the Fathers tell us, is a gift from God. It is these facets of human nature that can bind us together in friendship without, in any way, compromising the Orthodox Faith. We shall conclude with the words of St. Nicolas Mystikos addressing the Muslim Emir of Crete:
Since Patriarch Photios was a man of God and learned with regard to human and divine matters, he realized that, though a dividing wall of worship separated us, yet the attributes of human wisdom, intelligence, dependability of conduct, love for mankind and every other attribute that adorns and elevates human nature with its presence, ignites, in those persons who care for that which is good, friendship toward those imbued with the qualities that they have.