There was once a time when muslims were just another demographic in a vast and varied world. Those days have taken on the sepia tinge of memory.
The global consciousness is now saturated with daily headlines and images of righteous muslim indignation. This is the new normal.
STUCK ON REPLAY
After the senseless murders of the US embassy staff in Libya, protests erupted worldwide. Each day brought new scenes of mob violence and destruction. The story is as tired as an over-used soap-opera plotline; someone “insults” Islam or its prophet, muslims go on a destructive rampage while the rest of the world rubbernecks.
The low-budget film that supposedly sparked the most recent events is to be screened here in Toronto by a group of Hindu’s who are trying to convince us of their good intentions by throwing in a few “snippets from other movies that are offensive to Christians and Hindus” (TorontoSun)
WHAT HAVE I DONE?
As someone who became a muslim by choice I look around sometimes and think “What have I done?” So much of what I researched and felt a connection with is misrepresented in the world. Did I misunderstand? Was there something I missed?
I first felt it in the year following my conversion, scouring the Qur’an looking for the verse that demands women cover their hair. How could I have overlooked something that so many thought essential?
Nowhere in my reading have I come across the instruction to defend God, Islam, its prophet, or for that matter, to cover my hair.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE – BUT NOT WHERE YOU’D THINK
Initially, I looked to muslim society to learn more about my chosen faith – but this was risky. I’ve mentioned previously, in a post that netted me an award, that much false information shelters under the umbrella of Islam; bookshops that stock extremist publications, imams whose kuthbahs (sermons) confuse cultural obligations with religious ones and satellite channels broadcasting fundamentalist propaganda.
In the end, I had to use my basic knowledge as a foundation upon which to build my own views through careful research and discussion with a few trusted individuals. I learnt not to take anything at face value.
If I, with a genuine interest in Islam, found it difficult to separate fact from fallacy, what hope is there for your average non-muslim, struggling to wrap their heads around the ugly violence and hatred that accompanies any muslim-related news-story?
DOES ANYONE CARE ANYMORE?
I know I’m not alone in my rejection of these twisted doctrines but it’s easy to feel that way. The malignant ideologies of the extremists get daily exposure while the denials of moderates are unheard. I pitched this article to press both here in Canada and in the UK – no-one would touch it.
The world is sick of muslims full-stop, no-one’s interested in sorting the good from the bad anymore, the constant drone of muslim grievance has become white noise – meaningless and irritating. We’ve overstayed our welcome, trashed the guest bedroom and now everyone wants us out so they can clean up and get on with their lives. And who can blame them?
MUSLIMS IN NEED OF A RE-BRAND
Extremism and its incessant reportage coupled with clumsy bureaucratic handling of multiculturalism have hardened the public stance toward Muslims. The word is synonymous in the average Western mind with terror attacks, burqa-clad women, shifty men with implacable expressions, abuse of aid, honour killings and bloodthirsty crowds. Their culture, rituals and behaviour are presented as so far removed as to be almost inhuman. So how easy is it to get an accurate picture of Islam?
With extremists pushing for legitimation of their beliefs in secular society, the unchecked distribution of inaccurate material and the media perpetuating the myth by presenting it as the muslim faith without seeking to qualify it in any way, the answer is “Almost impossible.”
WOULD THE REAL MUSLIMS PLEASE STAND UP…
The global muslim community is known as the “Ummah”, and in an ideal world, we’re all one another’s siblings, bonded by our common religion. But it’s glaringly obvious we don’t all share the same beliefs.
Radical Islam has tentacles everywhere. Don’t make the mistake of thinking its proponents act out of religious conviction, that’s just the enabling label. They’re motivated by the basest of human impulses – power, control, the thirst for blood and twisted glory. They’re the furthest you can get from Islam. Here are a few of the common myths they peddle, debunked:
• There is no Quranic injunction to convert the entire planet to Islam or even to create an Islamic State.
• Muslims are not forbidden from mixing with non-muslims.
• The Qur’an does not require women to wear hijab, niqab, or burka; it advises both sexes to dress modestly.
• It doesn’t instruct muslims to obey sheikhs, imams, ayatollahs and mullahs – only to observe the laws of the land where they live.
• Sharia is not a formal code of law, but a discussion of the duties of Muslims. Only 80 verses in the Qur’an contain legal prescriptions, the rest is lifted from 7th-century desert life and shaped by men.
These are the archaic pronouncements of a handful of power-hungry dictators. Muslims and non-muslims alike should have no compunction about telling those who want them implemented throughout the world, to go and live where they’re already in existence.
These manipulative doctrines are in direct contrast to the elements at the core of Islam, the ones that influenced my decision to convert:
• The Qur’an states “there is no compulsion in Islam” The foundation of faith is freedom to choose.
• Islam condemns racism. People of all races and colours are equal.
• Women were given rights under Islam long before many Western democracies recognized them.
• The use of common sense and individual intelligence is encouraged in interpreting the teachings of the Qur’an; thinking things through rather than following the crowd.
• Asking questions and scientific enquiry doesn’t automatically compromise a person’s faith.
Remember this, because the yummy mummies, the engineers, the career women, the stay-at-home-dads and all the other muslims you don’t spot because they don’t conform to the stereotype, will appreciate that you could still be moved to do so.
It’s all of our responsibilities to reject these lies wherever we find them. The radicals don’t have a monopoly on defining Islam – accurate knowledge of the basic facts means anyone can, just don’t let the media be your sole source of information.
DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR
Negative comments left under my articles parrot what they’ve learnt from the media as though it’s gospel. But, the only muslim-related content that makes the front page is inflammatory, extremist rhetoric. If the Leveson inquiry in Britain taught us anything, it’s that the media doesn’t report the facts; they promote a story – the one most likely to sell. Journalism has been replaced by sensationalism. The content doesn’t matter as much as the bottom line.
The media could be a positive influence if it stopped categorizing people by religion (by doing this they play into the extremist’s hands), referred to them simply as “people” and qualified their copy with examples of how such behaviour perpetrated in the name of Islam is actually contrary to it.
Mainstream muslims must take back their faith for themselves, by refusing to let these inaccuracies circulate unimpeded, and the media industry could salvage some dignity and respect by helping them. How’s that for a story? I can see the headlines now:
Murdoch Saves World From Becoming Extremist Empire!