Let us begin with a very basic question. What is Islam all about? What does it preach? Islam means Muslims. That is all our understanding is confined to. Isn’t it? Well actually it signifies ‘submission to god’ and not brutality and violence. No deny it is a widely misunderstood religion in the world. There are several preconceived notions and prejudices that exist with this religion and most of such notions dwell in our minds as well. I personally know people who have a very negative stereotyped perception about Islam. Ever since it has come up on the world stage we have been insulting or slandering it under some or the other name, be it violence, conservatism or something else. But the real picture is very different from the one which we, our biased media and our political leaders have portrayed. There is an underlying racism driving this issue of religious discrimination. We all have Muslim friends in our schools, colleges, workplaces and even in our neighborhoods. Are they all terrorists and barbaric people? No, had it been so we wouldn’t be staying together in one community. But our so called ‘modernized’ world needs to understand this at a global level. Hence here we have ten popular disbeliefs that we commonly believe about Islam.
10. MUSLIMS RESIST MODERNIZATION
The western culture, no deny signifies a very modern way of living. But there are ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of every culture and tradition. Same is the case with the ‘European culture’ or what we generally call the westernized culture. If we claim that Muslims resist modernization, then yes they do so for a significant purpose. They do not want the evils of the west to enter their world. They have certain religious beliefs which clash with this broader concept of western culture. Certain western values such as pornography and divorce are not acceptable to them, but that does not mean in any way that they are backward and outdated. They are equally progressive towards modern changes in the society.
9. ALL ARABS ARE MUSLIMS, ALL MUSLIMS ARE ARABS
How do we picturise a Muslim? Someone who comes from Saudi Arabia with a long beard. But this conception of ours comprises just a minority of the entire Muslim population. Muslims are those who subscribe to the religion of Islam and not who are ‘Arabs’. Though the Quran is in Arabic, and all the holy sites of the religion are in Middle-East but that does not make the entire population Muslim. However the interesting fact is that the world’s largest population of Muslims lies in India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Other religions like Christianity and Judaism are also followed in Arab and it is not entirely a Muslim domain.
8. MUSLIMS HATE JESUS
You will be amazed to know that according to Muslim belief, Jesus is one of the greatest messengers of god. He is known as ‘Isa’ in Arabic and Mother Mary is named ‘Miriam’. In many verses of Quran he is mentioned to symbolise good virtue and character. So on what grounds can we say that Muslims hate Jesus? Moreover Christianity and Islam have quite similar historical references. However the only difference is that they consider Jesus to be a human prophet and not a divine figure. But this fact in no way signifies the concept of ‘hatred towards Jesus’. Also this thought has led to certain misunderstandings which have become a reason for global clash and conflicts between the two communities.
7. ISLAMIC ‘JIHAD’
In the recent times, this has become one of the widely misunderstood words surrounding Islam. What does ‘Jihad’ actually mean? It means struggle or ‘to strive’ which is used in Islam in three different levels to bring oneself closer to God. It begins with the struggle against oneself and one’s own selfish tendencies. Second is the struggle for social justice and rights and the third is an armed struggle for self defense or other purposes as well but certainly not to spread Islam in the name of sword. Any violent act cannot be justifiable by using this term. Hence it has an entirely different meaning in the context it is used and the meaning that it conveys.
6. QURAN WAS COPIED FROM CHRISTIAN AND JEWISH SOURCES
The Muslims mentioned Jesus in their verses not with the idea of copying him but to symbolize his preaching and beliefs. Also no Muslim says he follows Muhammad. All they say is that they believe in ‘Allah’, which is a name for God for Arabic Christians as well. The Almighty preaches us the same thing. It’s just that we have named him in different ways. No religion differs from the other when comes to its sole preaching. It is just that our beliefs take us to different directions. All prophets preach the same thing so referring one in the other should be seen as respect and not as ‘copying’.
5. INTOLERANCE TOWARDS OTHER RELIGIONS
Islam has always given respect and freedom of religion to all faiths. Religious intolerance is not something which the Islam practices nor does it preach any insensitivity of such kind. However such beliefs do nothing other than spoiling relations between people of different religious backgrounds. History is evident of the fact that Muslims have been tolerant towards religious diversity and they believe in protecting not only mosques but also monasteries and temples because it is the same God which resides everywhere in different forms. It emphasizes on the value of human life and people who claim to speak that Muslims are intolerant people and their motive is to destroy other religions need to understand the underlying political agendas to encourage such thoughts.
4. ISLAM BELIEVES IN POLYGAMY
Islam practices polygamy. Is it actually so? According to the Quran verse if a man can justly deal, then he can marry women of his choice but if he cannot deal justly with them then he should stay with one. From this verse, it is pretty evident that polygamy is neither mandatory nor encouraged, it is simply permitted. Moreover this concept is permitted in Judaism as well but still we highlight it only in an Islamic context. According to Hindu scriptures also, Dashratha had four wives, Lord Krishna had several wives. Well, when we talk of polygamy in Islam there is also a condition of the first wife approving the additional wife and each gets equal share of property. So this signifies that the man must be well off financially to bear all of them!
3. MUSLIMS ARE UNCULTURED AND BACKWARD
Many people in our society think of Muslims to be backward in general. They do not have high culture and proper ethics. What makes me wonder is such kind of generalization on the basis of religion justified? Is it fair to call a person uncultured or backward simply because he belongs to a particular religion? Of course not. Our outlook towards Muslims, thinking them to be filthy and dirty is absolutely wrong since religion in any way is not a parameter to distinguish people on this basis. Based on their food habits, life style and living conditions people develop such kind of notions which in reality is not valid and correct. Had it been so, we wouldn’t be sharing food with our Muslim friends in schools or colleges. Moreover the real backwardness lies in the minds of those who encourage such mentality.
2. ISLAM DEGRADES WOMEN
The concept of ‘hijab’ exists in all three religions which are Christianity, Islam and Judaism though the reasons may vary. In Islam the prime objective behind wearing a hijab is to protect the woman from the eyes of a molester. Also in many countries Muslim women wear hijab by choice, and not by compulsion. Several wrong things which are highlighted in the society in context to Muslim oppression towards women are not mentioned in Quran. They are practiced in the name of religion by people who interpret Quran in such a way so that it fits into their socio-cultural circumstances. But today just like other religions, Islam has also evolved in its own way, allowing greater rights to its women.
1. ISLAMIC IS A RELIGION OF VIOLENCE
Violent, savage, barbaric!! These are the words which sprout in the minds of many people when they think of Muslims. They have already been termed as ‘global terrorists’. The worldwide perception of the entire Muslim population being terrorists is the most common myth. The Quran in no way preaches extremism. We have picturised the Islamic religion in such a way that for all terrorist attacks all round the world we blame Muslims. Why is it so? Is the entire Muslim population to be blamed for that? Certainly not. Every person who has ‘Khan’ or ‘Husain’ as his surname is not a terrorist. It’s high time we realize this.
In this era of modernization, all we are doing is disintegrating in the name of religion. What matters in the end is the simple fact that we all are human beings and ‘humanity’ is our god. Humanity is the religion we all must follow since we were born as humans first and then as a Hindu,Muslim or a Christian. If we learn to coexist together then peace will walk itself in our lives and the world will naturally become a happier place to live in.