Setting the record straight on Islam
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Muslims? Perhaps more importantly what do you picture? Anyone picture someone from the desert wearing a turban, speaking Arabic and probably condemning the United States?
I recently went around to a number of college students on campus and did a non-scientific, realistic poll of what people thought of and what they pictured when they thought of the word Muslim.
Of the few people I asked, many gave me the response above, of an Arab who doesn’t speak English and who hates the United States. Others said they thought of terrorism and more specifically September 11. Of the people I asked, a majority said their knowledge of the basic tenants of Islam was based off television and the way in which the media has portrayed Muslims. When asked about their limited knowledge of Islam, some said that they thought that Allah was a man that Muslims worshiped.
To help clear some confusion and set the record straight, I wanted to change up how I offer editorials for the next few weeks and use my column as an educational piece, as well as to clear up common misconceptions.
Let’s begin by starting with the word Islam itself. The root letters of the word Islam are the Arabic letters seen, laam, meem – when they are put together it literally means peace. This peace can be defined in different ways, both inner and outer peace. There are five basic tenants or pillars of Islam: faith, prayer, charity, fasting and pilgrimage. We’ll get into the others later on, but, for the time being, let’s take a closer look at the testament of faith.
To make things clear, let’s set the record straight about Muslims being only Arabs, from the desert and condemning the United States. First of all, not all Muslims are Arab, and not all Arabs are Muslims. Of the top five most-populated countries, none are Arab countries (top five in order are Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Turkey). Even within Arab countries, there are a lot of countries that don’t have a desert in them.
Lastly, Islam and Muslims do not condemn the United States or the West. No matter how much someone would have you believe that we hate this country, that notion is simply false. I am a proud citizen of the United States and exercise my rights, just as others do. I am proud of the United States. Though I don’t always agree with its foreign policy, I in no way hate the United States.
Islam is the fastest growing religion and it continues to spread, peacefully. The Vatican released a story a few months ago which stated that Islam is now the largest religion in the world. People try to make the claim that Islam was spread via the sword, but example after example shows that it wasn’t. When Muslims conquered an area, the people of the area had the ability to keep their religion and their customs and everything they wanted. Those who have seen the movie “Kingdom of Heaven” saw a true depiction about the crusades, about how Salahuddin conquered Jerusalem and did not shed a drop of blood afterwards.
The Islamic testament of faith, which is usually taken in Arabic, translates in English as “I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is his servant and messenger.” Similar to the other monotheistic religions, Muslims pray to one God, who is considered to be all-knowing and all wise. The word Allah is defined as “the God” and essentially is just the Arabic word for God.
Similar to how the Christians have the Bible and the Jews have the Torah, Muslims also have a holy book, the Quran. There is only one version of the Quran. The Quran in its original form is in Arabic. There are translations available but they don’t do justice to the real text.
Education is not only what you learn in a classroom. Through our interactions with others, we have the ability to learn a lot about ourselves. I urge you all to go and do just a little bit of research about Islam before you make a judgment by watching a news piece. Be informed of reality and truth, rather than the sensationalism that we see on TV. There are several means for you to gain knowledge.
You can Wikipedia or Google your questions; you can go and talk to someone in the office of the Muslim Students Association (located in room 321 of the Student Union, next to the bike co-op). In this ever growing and more globalized world, you stand to gain by learning about others. Who knows, you might just learn something about yourself.
Subhan Tariq is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.