x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Education and a desire for truth will reveal the true nature of Islam

"Islam is a religion that respects other faiths and their followers and considers the 'followers of the book' - Jews and Christians - as righteous and as having a path to heaven."

There have been misconceptions about Islam since the time of its revelation.

Ever since the faith's rise and expansion, many westerners have seen Islam as a threat and conveniently distorted its image, which has influenced the masses.

Unfortunately, these false impressions are still widespread, despite there being an abundant availability of information on the belief to the contrary.

Even before the tragic events of 9/11, more often than not, I was confronted with bizarre questions about my religion while living in the US.

The questions included: "Why is Islam so violent?"; "Can you sell women for sheep, goats and camels in Islam?"; "Islam prohibits women from leaving the house, right?"

Telling them that peace was a basic principle of Islam and that women had the same rights as men did little to change their prefabricated image of the Islamic faith.

But the questions turned into accusations and verbal attacks shortly after September 11, 2001, as ignorance reared its ugly head.

"Islam promotes extremism" and "Islam is the enemy of progress" were a couple of the reactionary statements I heard on the street.

Even friends' family members felt compelled to say things including: "You're Muslim? So you are the enemy" and "Some people think that all of you Muslims should be kicked out of the country".

Granted, there were many Americans who understood Islam does not equate to terrorism, and sought out a better understanding of the religion.

But I came across too many members of the society, some even educated, who held deep misgivings about the principals of the faith.

A common misunderstanding was that Islam lacked religious tolerance and that all non-Muslims were "infidels" in the eyes of the belief.

On the contrary: Islam is a religion that respects other faiths and their followers and considers the "followers of the book" - Jews and Christians - as righteous and as having a path to heaven.

A historical example of this tolerance occurred while the caliph Umar ruled Jerusalem in the seventh century and safeguarded the rights, places of worship and freedoms of all other faiths.

Another image many in the West have is that of Muslim men being able to marry as many women as they please.

Monogamy, in fact, is the basis of ordinary relationships and is the more encouraged and preferred type of marriage within the religion.

At the time the Quran was revealed, many women and children were left widowed and orphaned due to war.

Polygamy in these cases aided society by allowing men to look after more than one woman and their children.

There are many more misconceptions about Muslims, such as not allowing children to play with toys or watch television shows that depict pigs; not being able to produce or enjoy art that shows humans or animals; and not permitting the playing or listening of all music.

All of these myths can be debunked by non-Muslims who learn the truth about Islam as well as Muslims who can educate others as to what their faith really entails.


Thamer Al Subaihi is a reporter at The National and a returning Emirati who grew up largely in the US