Written by Theresa Corbin
A lot has been said/written about the misconceptions non-Muslim have about Islam. Most of these misconceptions have been created by the Western media or by non-Muslims themselves *cough* orientalism *cough*.
But I think it is time to talk about how Muslims themselves create misconceptions or confusion about Islam. Yes, it happens! Not surprised? You shouldn’t be.
Confusion Muslims create:
1. Muslims are always angry, therefore this must be Islam
Yvette Sanchez*, a Muslim convert, a scientist, and mother of three, says:
Muslims propagate the myth that we are aggressive, angry, & emotional.
There is a group of Muslims that take themselves too seriously. They scowl all the time. They riot over every insult that any other faith community would just ignore. They are ALWAYS offended by something. These people have anger-management issues that have nothing to do with Islam.
We need to get over ourselves, folks. Have a laugh at yourself once in a while. The Prophet (PBUH) smiled, joked, played, and withstood insult with grace. Check out Humor in the Muslim Heritage for more about the sense of humor of the Prophet. If your Islam doesn’t make you generous, friendly, and smiley; you are doing it wrong!
2. Islam is a culture
I hear this all the time, whether it is someone speaking about Islamic culture or someone asking me about my Muslim culture. Muslims who are very insular in their part of the world and then migrate to the West often bring with them the idea that somehow their culture IS Islam. But the thing is that there is religion and their is culture. sometimes they intertwine. Sometimes they don’t.
I am a Muslim by faith and an American by culture. I eat red beans and rice without pork and with a nice cold beer … a root beer. I wear denim in a modest way. I say “salam, y’all” way too much. I’m an American Muslim and am not in need of any other culture in order to practice my faith.
Janice Jan, a Latina American Muslim convert, says that Islam is misrepresented by:
Those Muslims who follow their culture as if it is real Islam. Those Muslims who practice caste system.
This practice can be very confusing to the onlooker because Muslims come from a variety of cultures: Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, Indonesian, Chinese, Western European, American. Any culture you can think of, Muslims come from and participate in. Check out my post, “What is the Islamic World” for more on this topic.
However, this cultural confusion isn’t a huge problem until a Muslim, who is in direct contradiction to Islam, practices a cultural “quirk” and then turns around and calls their un-Islamic habits- Islam.
Cultural example: Saudi’s restriction on women drivers. It’s a cultural thing that many Saudis themselves believe to be Islamic.
But what is actually Islamic is that all the women in The Prophet’s (PBUH) day rode camels, and he never said boo about it. Seeing as how camels were the mode of transport back in the day, it is safe to say riding a camel is equivalent to driving a car.
We need to learn the difference between religion and culture and stop confusing the two. And stop confusing the world with our confusion.
3. Muslims believe that women are not equal to men
Speaking of women, this is another myth about Islam that Muslims propagate.
Asif Balouch, from philasify101.blogspot.com, says that one myth Muslims propagate is that of
Women being lesser. This is perpetuated most heavily via the mosque. The barrier that is placed, the women’s area being less accommodated, roomy and whatnot. Women practically being ostracized. Having to write in questions at Q&A rather than speak, etc.
In Islam women and men are EQUAL!! End of story.
Women need not be marginalized. The Prophet (PBUH) interacted, visited, and even sought counsel from women on a regular basis. He did not bar them from the Masajid (plural for masjid or mosque). He did not send them away when they approached him. He never treated them as or said they were less than men.
What he did say was that:
Men and women are twin halves of each other. (Narrated in Bukhari)
We are in a sad state if we cannot honor women. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
The most perfect of believers in belief is the best of them in character. The best of you are those who are the best to women. (Narrated in Tirmidhi)
Discrimination against women is prolific in the Muslim world and in direct contradiction to Islam. Women are having their genitalia mutilated, being forced to marry their rapist, being forced into marriage period, barred from education, barred from the workplace, and the list of un-Islamic treatment of women goes on.
It is a mark of arrogance that some men think themselves superior when Allah (SWT) tells us directly that no one has superiority except by righteousness, something earned and not innate or gendered.
4. Muslims are obsessed with hijab
Kiara Shank, a Muslim who observes hijab, says:
Muslims have an obsession with the hijab. I find it rather sad that we have reduced our religion to covering and not much else. There are more dire issues facing our ummah [community] than if a sister is wearing hijab correctly or not.
Hijab is a small part of Islam. More about hijab in my Hijabology post. But it is something external. So, many Muslims focus on it as a determining factor of faith. And while it is obligatory for women and men to dress modestly in respect to what is prescribed by Allah (SWT), many times Muslims will place the burden of modesty on women.
A Muslim woman could be the best she can in her worship of Allah (SWT), but her only failing (we all have at least one) is that she does not dress observe hijab, and she will be chastised and ostracized by those Muslims who may not do any acts of worship except dressing modestly.
We need to know that if faith is in the heart it cannot be seen, it cannot be judged, the connection with Allah (SWT) is invisible. Hijab does not define Islam, and it certainly doesn’t define someone’s faith.
5. Muslims are untrustworthy
Deen Stewart says:
So many times I have dealings with other Muslims in business and I know that when they use the word InshaAllah [God Willing], it means that whatever has been inshaAllah-ed, won’t get done. As a Muslim myself, I find this behavior and misuse of InshaAllah really gross.
I like to call this the InshaAllah Paradox. Some Muslims think that by saying InshaAllah they can get out of doing anything they have promised to do, acting as if their lack of effort in doing things promised was Allah’s (SWT) will. This is just laziness and a manipulation of faith. There’s a difference between Allah’s will and our own effort in seeking the means.
It has gotten so bad that most non-Muslims think that inshaAllah means NO! When it actually means that you will do everything in your power to do what you agreed to. And if God’s will prevents you, you know you still did everything in your power.
Muslims, we need to take these things seriously. Creating confusion about Islam is a serious matter. In fact, we could be misguiding people by our actions. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be responsible for that.
*Name changed for privacy.
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