Matthew Walsh's EFL ESL website

 Islam and the Middle East: Too Often Misunderstood.


(click to download whole sound file)

  Before we can talk about Islam and the Middle East, we need some definitions. In the media we hear these words so often, but how many of these words do you really know?

Religious terms:
  'Islam' is the name of the second largest religion on Earth. It means 'surrender' or 'submission'. A 'Muslim' is 'someone who submits' to the one and only God, 'Allah'. The Qur'an is the book by the prophet Muhammad that teaches the way of Islam. Islam is popular not only in the Middle East, but also Africa and parts of Asia. (see map below)
 'Jihad' means to fight against something bad. This could mean something within yourself, or an enemy on the outside. Finally, the 'Hajj' is a trip to Mecca every Muslim wishes to take once in their lifetime.

  The country Israel was made in the Middle East by the Jewish people after World War II. Israel forced the Palestinian people to leave the land so the country could be created. Many Islamic countries dislike Israel because of the Palestinian problem, however the U.S. supports Israel. This makes some Muslims angry with the U.S., or 'The West' in general, too. A very few Muslims even feel they need to fight or 'Jihad' in order to protect Islam, but most Muslims just want peace and to live a normal life.
  'Hezbollah' is an Islamic political organization from Lebanon and 'Hamas' is from Palestine. Both were elected by the people, but both dislike Israel so the U.S. treats them as terrorists.
  Most people think that 'al-Qaeda' is a group of people or an organization like Hezbollah or Hamas, but it is actually a word used first in English for any Muslims that fight. Osama Bin Laden is a very rich person from Saudi Arabia who supported the "al-Qaeda" people that attacked on 9/11. Saudi Arabia is rich because of oil and is friends with the U.S..  Many of the people we now call 'al-Qaeda' are from the 'Mujahideen', the various people who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union invasion in the 1980's. At the time, the U.S. supported the 'Mujahideen' because they disliked the Soviet Union. After the Mujahideen, the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. The Taliban were known as very strict and violent about their religious rules.  Several different tribes living near the border of Pakistan are also called 'Taliban' by the media because they think and act similarly, however they are not the same people who ruled Afghanistan.
  Iraq, which the U.S. invaded on March 19th 2003, had nothing to do with any of this.

Where is the truth?
  The more we hear, the more we wonder who is really good and who is really bad. When we hear about these things on the news, it seems that we are being taught that everything Islamic is evil and every Muslim wants to be a terrorist.  If we consider that 20% of the people in the world are Muslim, we realize this simply can't be true. A few dangerous or violent people from a certain religion or culture do not represent the majority.

taj  muslim dist  mosque

(download gapfill for Islam and the Middle East: Too Often Misunderstood.)

Obama's speech in Cairo

    (opening greeting)c. assalaamu alaykum.

    We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
      Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

(download gapfill for Obama Cairo Speech)