First you should watch this CNN clip. It's about the move to build a mosque near ground Zero. http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2010/07/14/am.intv.mosque.ground.zero.cnn.html
Okay I'm REALLY going to try to not sound like a teacher or too condescending. (But I'm afraid both happened) One of the biggest issues I have with Americans is their claim to understand religions, cultures, and languages that they know nothing about. So today we are getting an Arabic lesson; I'm hoping this might help shed some understanding on a few controversial terms.
Every word in Arabic has a three letter root. For example
aDRoS- I study
All have the root patters DRS. This root pattern conveys the meaning of learning, and any words connected to the process of learning has this root, DRS.
iSLaM- the religion
muSLiM- a follower of Islam
The root pattern of these words is SLM. SLM means peace. Therefore, Islam means, peacefully submitting oneself to God and Muslim means one who peacefully submits oneself to God.
And the roots are very important. It is actually really offensive to call a Muslim a Muzlim. Because the root ZLM means forcefully submitting oneself to God. One letter can change the complete meaning of a word.
Islam is built on a foundation of Peace. And anyone who wants to contradict me on this I want you to look at how many people world wide have been killed in the name of Christianity since its beginning. And I bet you thought while you read that, "Well sure that has happened. But that isn't REALLY Christianity. The people who did that were not REAL Christians!" And Muslims of the world would say the same things about the "Muslims" who kill innocent people in the name of Islam.
You have to self identify as a member of a religion. You, at some point, choose which religion you are going to stick with. You could choose to have no religion, continue on the path of the religion you were born into or convert to a new one. But because you happen to be a part of a religion does not mean that you have to agree completely with the acts that are done in the name of that religion.
Furthermore, the West's concept of Shari'a, "Islamic law", is far too simplified and contorted. T