By Ejaz Naqvi
August 5, 2017
Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism is on the rise. Despite the new found-fame, Islam and Muslims remain largely unknown. The article aims to narrow the gap between those who want to know more about Muslims and those who are looking to dispel the myths.
“So what are some of the stereotypes you heard people say about Muslims?”
“Muslims are terrorists.”
“Muslim women are oppressed.”
“You know, go back home. You are foreigner.”
“Not all Muslims are terrorists. But all terrorists are Muslims”.
“Muslims are un-American.”
“They are all Arabs”.
“The Qur’an teaches hate.”
This is the transcript of the opening minute of a 11- minute short film by Unity Productions Foundation, titled “American Muslims: Facts vs Fiction, that I have shown as part of my interfaith council’s “Love Your Muslim Neighbour” program numerous times. The documentary has about a million views on YouTube and has many more million views on various other outlets.
Regarding “Not all Muslims are terrorists. But all terrorists are Muslims”, the segment in blue ink is an add on after I first published the post.
There was a firebomb attack at a mosque in Bloomington, MN on Saturday August 4, 2017. NBCnews.com reported:
The FBI has taken over the investigation and Minneapolis special agent in charge Rick Thornton told reporters that the blast was from an improvised explosive device…..A motive in the bombing, and whether it was a hate crime, has not been determined, Thornton said…..Local leaders and faith groups denounced the violent act.
Note that the T word-terrorism was never used by anyone on the report. If it was any other place of worship, I have a feeling they would have called it an act of terrorism even before the bomb went off-literally. But since the victims were Muslims (thank God no one was injured), everyone seems to have a hard time calling it an act of terrorism. Such is the state of our brainwashed mindset.
Islam and Muslims have been in the limelight for at least the last two decades. Muslims in America have largely been known through the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, 9/11 and acts of terrorism. The obsessive focus on the negativities in mainstream media and national politics has only fuelled Islamophobia. During the past elections, calls for banning anti-Sharia laws (whereas none exist or have been proposed as legislation), President Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims, and the subsequent Muslim travel ban have greatly contributed to the fear, hate and stereotyping.
Despite the newfound fame, Islam and Muslims remain largely unknown. Many myths still exist.
Even though polls after polls have shown that Muslims and Islam have a negative perception, most Americans also state they do not know a Muslim personally. ,,
This has prompted a call to learn more about Islam and Muslims. Many organizations such as Unity productions Foundation, Islamic Network Group (ING), American Muslim Voice have sprung to action to educate others about Muslims and Islam.
Another organization that has worked to remove stereotypes against Islam and Muslims may come as a surprise to you. That organization is Anti Defamation League or ADL. ADL’s core mission is to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and fight anti-Semitism but has also been engaged in educating America on Islam and Muslims!
Rather than repeating the stereotypes and their rebuttal, I would encourage you to watch the UPF short film and read the article by ADL noted above. I will touch upon these very briefly and touch other aspects not covered by them.
Myth 1: “All Muslims are Arabs”
Fact: Only about 20% of Muslims are Arabs or Middle Eastern. The rest live outside of the Arab world.
Muslim Americans are much more diverse group than any other American group. This has been shown by polls by Pew Research Centre and more recently by a study conducted by Institute of Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). According to the study:
Muslims are the only faith community surveyed with no majority race, with 25% black, 24% white, 18% Asian, 18% Arab, 7% mixed race, and 5% Hispanic.
Half of Muslims are native born and half are foreign born, but most (86%) are citizens.
Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics have similar education levels.
Myth 2:“American Muslims Are Not “Assimilated”
Fact: Muslims are integral part of American fabric.
You will find Muslims in the media, comedy shows, law, sports, high tech businesses, and armed forces. They may be your next Uber driver or NY cab driver (going 60 MPH in a 35 MPH zone). There is a good chance the good doctor who takes care of you is a Muslim, even though his/her name may not “sound Muslim” and he/she may not “look Muslim”. Why do they not “look” Muslim is because Muslims are a diverse ethnic group and not everyone is of a “foreign origin”.
A large number of Silicon Valley executives and CEOs/founders are Muslims, contributing to the job growth and American economy. You will find Muslims in academia and as heads of their departments.
In terms of social justice and civic engagement, Muslims are as likely, if not more likely to be engaged than other people of other faiths. According to the ISPU study referenced above:
Muslims are the most likely faith group (66%) to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. This compares with roughly 58% of Jews and individuals not affiliated with a faith, and less than 39% of Catholics and Protestants. The highest support for BLM is among Muslims who are black (72%), Asian (76%), or young (72%).
Myth #3: “You Cannot Be A Good American And A Devout Muslim”
Fact: Most Muslim Americans don’t feel they need to choose between being a “good American” and a devout Muslim.
Quoting a Pew research study, the above-mentioned ADL article finds that majority of Muslim don’t feel conflicted when it comes to patriotism and their faith. This is at par with similar feelings expressed by Christians.
Muslim Americans are equally as likely to identify with their faith as they do with the United States; 69% identify strongly with the U.S. and 65% identify with their religion. A 2013 Pew study found that most Muslim-Americans (63%) say there is no inherent tension between being devout and living in a modern society; as a point of comparison 64% of American Christians felt that way.
Myth 4: “Muslim Women Are Oppressed”
Fact: Muslim women are as active, if not more so, than Muslim men in family and social affairs.
Though it is very true that many Muslim women are abused in many majority Muslim countries and even in the USA, it is an over generalization to conclude that “Muslim women are oppressed”. Not ignoring the fact that more work needs to be done to address domestic violence against women and the abusive treatment many receive from their male counterparts, Muslim women are integral part of Muslim communities.
According to the ISPU study , American Muslim women are more educated than men.
“Muslim women are more likely than Muslim men to achieve higher education (73% of women vs. 57% of men with post-high school education or higher). “
Though Muslim women are typically excluded (or at least severely under represented) from leadership role in Masjids (mosques), they are probably more active than men in the non-profit organizations.
There is clearly a need to include more women on Masjid boards and leadership.
However they do not take no for an answer, and numerous women have founded, or have been actively engaged in non-profit organizations, leading their communities in social activism, civil justice, protecting civil liberties, and interfaith work.
One of the co-chairs of the national Women’s March is Linda Sarsour.
The list of women leaders is long and to maintain the brevity I will mention just a few. These include: Maha Elgenaidi of ING, Saminda Sundas of American Muslim Voice, Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates, Zahra Billoo of CAIR San Francisco bay Area, Dalia Mogahed of ISPU, Somayeh Nikooei of Islamic scholarship Fund and last but not the least, Dilshad Ali– managing editor of our own Muslim portal on Patheos.
Muslim Women In World Leadership
Since 1988, eight Muslim women have led their (Muslim majority) countries. There are Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Iraq where there is a higher percentage of women in elected offices than the United States!
The closet we have come to electing a woman as the president was in 2016 when Hillary Clinton didn’t make the final cut against Donald Trump- assist from the Russians or not, no women to-date has been elected to lead our country.
ING has developed lesson plans to debunk many of these stereotypes against Muslim women, ranging from their role in history, innovations and leadership.
The list of myths about Muslims, Islam and Muslim Americans is much longer than this single post can cover. I will address many other myths in my future posts such as:
Allah is a separate “God of Muslims”, different than the “God of the Bible”.
Muhammad, PBUH, is the “founder” of Islam.
Muhammad, PNUH, wrote the Qur’an.
The Qur’an promotes hatred of Jews and Christians.
Hijab is a dress code for Muslim women.