Jainism and Islam: More similar than you might think

Perhaps no two faith traditions are viewed as more divergent than Islam and Jainism. Indeed, the former is often associated with violence and extremism, while the latter is usually known for its inspiration for peaceful civil rights movements through its concept of ahimsa (nonviolence). As a Muslim of Indian background, I have wondered how to counter misinformation about my religion…

One commonality stems from the concept of nonviolence. The Jain saint Mahavira taught that all life is sacred, and that beings should always avoid harming one another. This idea is known as ahimsa. However, I learned at YJA that nonviolence does not equate to passivity or a LACK of action; rather, much like the movements of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, ahimsa involves an active pursuit for justice for all beings. In this way, ahimsa shares some similarities with Islam.

In Islam, the word jihad (meaning “struggle” in Arabic) is frequently misunderstood, and often refers to an inner moral struggle within a person, much like a decision of conscience.  Even when the term is applied in the military context, violence in Islam is intended as a last resort, and must only be used in self-defense or in the pursuit of justice.   Islam wholly respects the sanctity of life…blah blah blah

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I for one am sick of reading about gangs of Jains grooming white girls in the UK, of them being over-represented in prison, under-represented in employment and so on. And that is just the immigrants. Look around the world. Just check out today’s TROP Ramadan scorecard.

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