Myths And Misconceptions About Islam


I am a child of the '80s. I remember listening to 'hair metal', playing with My Little Pony and drinking a disgusting concoction called 'New Coke'. Unfortunately, I also remember hearing a lot of stories on the news about violence in the Middle East that didn't make much sense. Thirty-some-odd years later, the violence still doesn't make sense. Ever since 9/11, the news media has had quite a bit to say about Islam, the predominant religion in the area and the one practiced by a good number of terrorists and suicide bombers. Despite the bad press, however, Islam is actually a very peaceful and fascinating religion. I've had several Muslim friends and coworkers, and none of them are even remotely like the angry people we see on the news. For this reason, I'm going to attempt to dispel some of the myths that have been going around. Since I can only touch on them for brevity's sake, I'll include a list of websites for further reading.

Misconception #1-'Muslim' equals 'Arab'.
Fact-Only 15% of Muslims are in the Middle East. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia, nearly 5,000 miles away. At this writing, Muslims make up about 1/5 of the world's population, most of whom live in various parts of Asia and Africa.

Misconception #2-Muslims hate America and everything about it.
Fact-It might seem like that because of people like Osama Bin Laden, terrorists and suicide bombers, but it's not true. Sure, some might, but some cats hate dogs while others love them. You can't please all of the people all of the time. We shouldn't mistake the actions of a few as being representative of the whole, especially since the good and decent people tend not to make the news.

Misconception #3-Muslims believe in 'jihad', waging a holy war against all 'infidels' (non-Muslims) in the name of their god Allah.
Fact-This is only partly true. While the word 'jihad' can refer to such a struggle, the concept is much more detailed than that. There are actually several 'types' of jihad, mostly relating to one's personal conduct-to keep oneself pure from any form of evil and to strive for justice at all times. There is a 'physical Jihad' idea that involves violence, but it is referring to defensive measures only and is nowhere near as important as the inward struggles mentioned above. This is barely the tip of the iceberg, so visit the sites I mention below for more information.

Misconception #4-Islam degrades women.
Fact-Most of the mistreatment of women we hear about on the news-killing someone for dishonoring the family, forcing a woman into marriage, the mutilation of female genitalia, etc-are based on the customs and cultures of the particular countries and are not endorsed by the religion. As I said above, most of the stories we in the US hear about on the news take place in countries that only house 15% of the world's Muslim population.

As I said above, Islam is a rather fascinating religion. While there are doctrines that can be construed as advocating violence, there are just as many that advocate peace. Like any other religion, there is a lot more to it than can be described in a single article. If you're interested in learning more about it, visit:

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