Top 10 Misconceptions About Islam
If you are in the United States, you are likely aware that we are in the middle of a fierce election. One of the most common topics of this election, thanks to the likes of Donald Trump, is Islam, the religion of Muslims.
Thus far, most of the election talk about Islam has been negative, and for the most part, this talk has been untrue and full of misconceptions. The media, of course, does not help this misconception, nor do terrorist attacks, such as the ones that happened in Paris and Brussels. When people see the word ISIS, or see anything with the word “Islam,” they associate it with bad things. The truth is, however, is that Islam is a very peaceful religion; the people who claim to do these things in the name of Islam are extreme Muslims and for the most part, other Muslims hate that they are associated with these actions.
You can easily compare Christianity, a religion most in the US are more familiar with, to Islam. In fact, there are certainly many extreme Christians out there, those who take the Bible literally. Yet, to an outsider of the Christian religion, someone who believes in God and Jesus, yet never goes to church, is lumped together with those extreme Christians. In truth, these people are very different and would be unlikely to find a lot of middle ground in their beliefs, short of believing in the same deity.
The misconceptions about Muslims goes far beyond the violent nature of the extreme practitioners of Islam. Here are the top 10 misconceptions about Islam:
10. All Muslims are Violent, Extreme and Terrorists
Might as well get this one out of the way. It is a very common misconception that all Muslims promote violence, all of them are extreme, and all will eventually become terrorists or promote terrorist actions. None of this is true.
Think about this for a second. When a terrorist attack occurs in the name of Islam, others are very quick to blame all Muslims. However, when a gunman shoots up a mosque in the name of Jesus, or a Jewish extremist bombs an urban area, are all Christians and all Jews blamed? Of course not! So why are all Muslims?
Here’s the truth: politics in many “Muslim countries” may not even have any Islamic basis. These countries are often led by politicians who are more dictators than anything else, and these leaders use Islam largely for their own purposes. However, the literal meaning of Islam is “submission to God,” and the root of the word means “peace.”
However, like Christianity, Islam allows for fighting in defense of the religion, in self-defense and in cases where a person is being forcibly taken from their home. There are also very strict guidelines in Islam that prohibit harming other civilians or destroying livestock or crops. There is not one place in the Quran that says it is OK to kill innocent people, and in fact, the Quran bans those actions.
As Westerners, we often look at Islam as an exotic or “weird” religion, as to Muslims, their religion is a way of life. At it’s root, however, the guidelines are much the same as those found in the Bible.
9. All Muslims are Arabs and All Arabs are Muslim
If you listen to Donald Trump and his cronies, or even pay attention to the news, you may have noticed that he has said several times in the past that all Muslims would be banned from coming into the United States. Those who are opponents of this plan ask one simple question: How do you know a person is Muslim? Fans of this plan, though some are unwilling to let their racist flag fly, believe that any Arab person that attempts to come into the US is a Muslim. So with this in mind, any person with a certain look or certain skin color must be Muslim and should not be allowed in the country.
The man with a dark complexion wearing a turban is obviously a Muslim, right? Wrong. What’s to say he isn’t a Sikh? Sikhism is a totally different religion than both Islam and Christianity, and Sikhs are far from Muslim. Some Jewish and Greek men also wear turbans. Are they banned from entering the US too? The truth is, only a very small number of Muslims wear turbans, and Arabs make up less than 20 percent of the entire population of Muslims worldwide.
Where do most Muslims come from? East Asia. In fact, almost 70 percent of Muslims are East Asian and come from Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. There are more than 200 million Muslims in Indonesia, alone. Africa also has many Muslims, about 27 percent of all Muslims on Earth, which again, is a much higher number than the Muslims that come from the Middle East.
8. There are Only Two Types of Islam
If you know anything about Islam, you know that there are Shi’a and Sunni Muslims. Sunni Muslims make up approximately 85 percent of Muslims, and those who fall into this sect see themselves as traditional Muslims who follow the traditions of Muhammad and who are descendants of the first two generations of followers of Muhammad. An additional 10 percent of Muslims are Shi’ite Muslims. The Shi’a are those who believe that Ali, who was the son-in-law of Muhammad, is the successor of his father-in-law, and that the modern Muslim community should be led by his descendant. There are several subgroups of Shi’ite Muslims.
There are other types of Muslims than simply Shi’a and Sunni, however. Sufis, for instance, are Islamic mystics. These followers go above and beyond the normal requirements of the Islamic religion, and they attempt to create a personal relationship with God through spiritual grown and meditation. Ahmadiyyas and Baha’is are two offshoots of the main types of Islam. Both sects are rather new religions, and they originated from the Shi’ite practices of Islam similarly to how Christianity can trace itself back to Judaism.
There are also the Alevis, Druze and ‘Alawis sects. These sects, though they consider themselves to be Muslim, have unorthodox practices and beliefs, and they do not follow all of the teachings of Muhammad. Other Muslims do not consider them Muslims, and in some cases, see them as heretics.
7. Muslim Women Have No Rights
One of the hot topics when people discuss Islam is the rights of women. It is a complicated issue as there is a very big difference between religion and culture in this case. When you look at Islam alone, there is absolutely nothing in the Quran that states women should not have the same rights as men. In fact, the Quran actually teaches that both genders should take on equal roles in society. There are numerous Muslim women who have made outstanding accomplishments in the fields of art, science, academia, science and politics, just in the past year, not to mention, through the past decades. In fact, if you still don’t believe that Islam teaches that women have rights, consider that Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who is a former professor of biology, was elected President of Mauritius, a country in Africa. Islam is the second most popular religion in the country. Monique Ohsan Bellepeau, another woman, serves as the Vice President of the country. Obviously, if Islam looked down on the rights of women, these two would not be in positions of power.
Though Islam does not teach that women should have little or no rights, some of the cultures that follow Islam DO believe this. Many of these countries have a patriarchal culture, which is separate from the religion of the country, and even if people in the country do not practice Islam, they still fall under the culture rules of patriarchy.
If there is a common world religion that teaches that women should have fewer rights than men, it’s Christianity. In the Bible, 1 Timothy 2: 11-13 says: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”
6. Muslims Hate Jesus
If you are a Christian, you believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that he is the one savior that God promised to his people. Many Christians also believe that Muslims, who follow the teachings of Muhammad, hate Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are actually a number of similarities between the history of Islam and Christianity, and many people are surprised to find that, according to Muslims, Jesus is seen as one of the most respected and revered messengers of God. In fact, a person cannot be a Muslim without believing that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, and that he performed a number of miracles.
Jesus is mentioned in several verses throughout the Quran, and was always seen as a man with a good character and one who was virtuous. However, the big difference between Islam and Christianity is that Christians believe that Jesus was God, and Muslims do not. It is really no different than the beliefs of the Jewish religion, who also believe that, though Jesus was a good, kind and knowledgeable teacher, he was not the messiah that God promised to his people.