Funk on Faith

Imam: ISIS wicked, barbaric – and antithesis of Islam

Imam John Ederer, an Oklahoma native who grew up Catholic and converted to Islam at 18, will speak Saturday night in Concord at a forum called “Should We Fear Islam?”
Imam John Ederer, an Oklahoma native who grew up Catholic and converted to Islam at 18, will speak Saturday night in Concord at a forum called “Should We Fear Islam?” dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Wicked. Barbaric. Corrupt.

Those are some of the words John Ederer uses to describe ISIS.

I can imagine most of you shaking your heads in agreement.

But I’m afraid some of you will be put off by this next bit of information: Ederer, 36, is an imam, or Muslim community leader, who also says that ISIS is a heretical cult that is “completely distorting Islam.”

I’m hoping you’ll give Ederer a listen, especially if you’re among non-Muslims who still believe that not enough Muslims are speaking out against terrorists who claim to be acting in the name of Islam.

Ederer, an Oklahoma native who grew up Catholic and converted to Islam at 18, will speak this Saturday night in Concord at a forum called “Should We Fear Islam?”

His answer is an emphatic “No,” and points out that Islam means “To live for the will of God to attain peace.”

“Islam is a spiritual lifestyle, similar to devout Christianity and Judaism,” says Ederer, the imam at the Muslim Society of Charlotte from 2010 to 2014 and now the imam at the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Okla.

To call ISIS Islamic, Ederer told me, “is like saying the KKK is Christian” because it uses Christian symbols – burning crosses – and cherry-picked Bible verses to justify its violence and hate.

And for those outside Islam who claim that the Koran, the Muslims’ holy book, condones killing, he asks that they acknowledge that the Bible has some bloodthirsty passages that can also be taken out of context or cast as representative of the whole book.

From the Old Testament: “If (a city) makes war against you, you shall besiege it; and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all the males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, you shall take as booty for yourselves.” – Deuteronomy 20: 12-14.

From the New Testament: “As for these enemies of mine, who do not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.” – From one of Jesus’ parables, Luke 19:27.

Many Christians, Ederer says, will insist that those and other troubling biblical verses must be read in some context. “I agree,” he says. “And the same opportunity of contextualization must be given the Koran as well.”

Ederer can be a harsh critic of the Israeli government – he is respectful of Judaism, but not of modern Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

But his denunciations of ISIS are as tough as any I’ve heard: “very barbaric, inhumane, ignorant, sinister – and the complete antithesis of Islam.”

Ederer says he and other Muslims mourn for the many non-Muslims killed by ISIS – including 21 Coptic Christians who were recently beheaded. But he adds that “Muslims are also very frustrated with this cult because their main victims are Muslims.”

tfunk@charlotteobserver.com

Want to go?

Imam John Ederer will speak at 7 p.m. this Saturday at Embassy Suites, 5400 John Q. Hammons Drive NW in Concord. Admission is free. The event is sponsored by the American Islamic Outreach Foundation.

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