The truth about Islam

Posted by on Sep 25, 2012 | 62 comments

The Truth About Islam

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 it’s 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 behavior 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 sheiks, 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 don’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 behavior perpetrated in the name of Islam is actually contrary to it.
Mainstream muslims must take back 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!

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62 Comments

  1. Muslims in need of a re-brand Yes!
    You are right about negative publicity, but also a lot of “Do-Gooders” in the UK have created problems by positive discrimination against Christians.

    It’s a great shame because I am sure the Muslim religion has many admirable qualities, and certainly the way you have described it through your posts is appealing for those looking for an anchor in their lives. I have personally learned more about Muslims through your blog, than from any newspaper!’s

    I always thought Muslims were intolerant of other religions…but that’s what I read and therefore believed!

    • There is so much tosh in the media that people understandably take to be a true representation of Islam and it just isn’t. And heaven forbid we should risk offending someone by asking a genuine question!

      • Political correctness stifles curiosity and people tiptoe around genuine questions lest they unintentionally offend. I enjoy your posts about Islam as I’m curious by nature.

  2. I watch Real Time with Bill Maher. If you don’t know him he is an American comedian and his show is on HBO. Last week’s episode covered this newest outrage. He and others on the panel basically said what you have here. Some muslims in power have created a society that calls for people to be outraged when the prophet is insulted or they feel their religion has been insulted and want this type of reaction. It feels right into their hands. We all need to adopt a different way of reacting to such things because clearly we are not getting anywhere.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ll have to see if I can find the show on You-tube. It makes perfect sense when you think about the places where the biggest problems have been – all countries with large numbers of disaffected, poorly educated males in the 18-25 age bracket, who are easily radicalized and used to further the agendas of corrupt political and religious leaders.

      • You can find full episodes online at watchseries.eu. That is where I watch most of my shows from home.

        • Oooh thanks! I’ll have to see what else they’ve got :-)

          • They have TONS of British shows too, so I catch up on some I miss there as well. Enjoy :)

  3. Well said Aisha, THIS is what needs to be shared and read and spread. As I was reading this, it struck me that similar pieces could be written about Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and so on. All suffer from inaccuracies reported in the media and instances of confusion over where the line between religious beliefs ends and politicizing of issues begins…

  4. I’m really glad you published this article yourself, although it’s a great pity that the press wouldn’t run with it. It saddens me to see so much fuss being made over ridiculous, petty ‘offences’ such as the recent silly film. Like Piglet, I have learned a lot about Islam from you and I think you’re doing important work in communicating the facts about your religion. I just wish the media at large would help spread this information.

  5. 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”

    Absolutely agreed.

    I have always felt that lumping everyone into the same category is wrong. Be it Muslims, Christians, blacks, whites, etc. A group of Christians do not speak for all Christians, a group of Muslims do not speak for all Muslims, feminists do not speak for all women, and the lists goes on.

    There are a lot of radical groups out there touting their beliefs behaving as though they speak for the whole of that group and the fact is they don’t. Unfortunately, those are the ones that speak the loudest or are focused on and as a result, we start tarring everyone with the same brush.

    The sad reality is that so many take what the media reports as the gospel truth and based on that they form their beliefs. Let’s face it, Muslims that excude happy, loving, accepting of all, attitudes, don’t exactly sell newspapers or magazines nor would they be a real draw to news sites.

    The fact is you can’t or you shouldn’t assume your neighbour, local shop owner, colleague, etc; is a terrorist simply because they are a Muslim anymore than people should believe that all Christians are all holier than thou haters of everything that doesn’t glorify God’s every word.

    Bottom-line……Great article!

    • Certainly there is much misinformation about Islam and the teachings of Mohammed, from both inside and outside the Ummah. Every community of which I am aware including Jewry and Christianity has a term for them and us. As a Jew, I value my bilingual copy of the Quran, because with great difficulty (Arabic being related to Hebrew) I can often read the Arabic. My former synagogue never did the Dy of Atonement afternoon without the visit of an imam to talk bout tauba (= repentance) from the Muslim perspective as opposed to teshuvah (= repentance) from the Jewish perspective. One also has to admit that although many Jews and many Muslims are fundamentalists in the sense of paying VERY close attention to text, textual analysis differs widely from community to community. Then in Islam you have the Hadith or sayings of Mohamed which add much to the religion of Islam as does the Talmud to Judaism. What is significant is that where it took Christianity until about 90 or so to have a New Testament and it was written in Greek rather than the Hebrew in which Jesus spoke (talk to me about the difficulty of translation of cultural concepts), there was a standard Quran by 634, only two years after the Haj.

    • Well said,my friend.The truth will set you free.

  6. A very insightful article. One of the problems on the UK is how a number of extreme right wing organisations will tell falsehoods about what is and is not acceptable. Such as the notion that Cheistians are not allowed Christmas cards as they “offend other faiths” I know of (and have researched) no agencies in th UK who have banned them. So this satement is simply made to encourage Christians to feel anger towards non-Christians. And this is just one example. Extremism is not unique to any one race or religion, and no religion has a monopoly on poor behaviour.

  7. Thank you for this. It completely and effectively lays out everything I feel about Islam :)

  8. Big big hugs from another muslim by choice in Malaysia! This is exactly how I feel! I tried looking into the muslims community for Islam but I was so disappointed. At some point in my life I did ask myself “what have I done?” But the bottom line is, I have no problem with Islam and God, but I do have problems with muslims. May Allah bless you my dear :)

  9. I saw this as a post on Facebook from Irshad Manji. Very intriguing . I’m a single American woman recently relocated to Cairo, Egypt to take a teaching position at an international school. I’m non-religious by choice and tend to think more like Chris Hitchens. However, I am fascinated by all religions and the fact that many: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc. can have radical and dangerous holds on people. Extremeism in any form is very dangerous. I’m appalled and ashamed of the so-called “Christians” who made THE video, freedom of speech is a key value in the US but it certainly comes with consequences when hate speech is involved. My President, made an eloquent and impassioned speech to the UN General Assembly this week.

    • I don’t understand why you should be ashamed. Did you have anything at all to do with the making of this pathetic film. Are you also ashamed of the thugs and fools who took innocent lives in revenge for the film. I’m confused, one man out of a population of 300 million makes a film ridiculing the prophet, a film by the way that would not have seen the light of day had it not been repeatedly referred to in order to fan the flames of righteous and muderous indignation, and you say you are ashamed. Anyway since reading these comments it has been reported that a Muslim cleric has publicly burnt a bible. The response from the Christian world has been underwhelming, they stayed home in droves. And did nothing. Or perhaps they turned the other cheek. I haven’t heard any Muslims claiming to be ashamed because of his actions. As an atheist I almost don’t care about any of it, except that people are killed for the most ridiculous reasons. And that freedom will probably become ever more restricted because of superstitious beliefs, and the touchy sensibilities of believers. All too stupid to realise that one man’s blasphemy is another man’s faith.

  10. Thanks for this! I’m one of the (perhaps few) non-Muslim North Americans who realizes that Islam does not equal extremism. A while ago I wrote something addressed to those Muslims who haven’t come to the same realization: http://behindthehedge.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/an-open-letter-to-certain-protesters-in-the-islamic-world/

    Sadly, I suspect that there are masses in the vast and varied Muslim world who are simply not educated enough to question what their often-extremist leaders — religious and secular — tell them.They are the too often violent pawns of evil people.

    Again, a great piece deserving a wide readership.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every reasoning Muslim — the majority — wrote such a blog and saturated the internet?

    • Indeed it would. Complaining to the media when false/misleading information is presented as fact, reporting bookshops that sell books that do the same and getting those publications pulled from the shelves or re-classified as minority views, standing up and walking out of mosques where imams preach hate and intolerance; these are all ways that ordinary muslims can make a difference. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • I make a point of tweeting, facebooking, etc. the news stories that sometimes do come out covering Muslim condemnation of terrorism, sharia, etc. I also like to give a shout-out to the annual Canada Day barbecue one of the local mosques hosts for all who care to show up, regardless of faith or lack of it.

  11. 21:43 says “They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary.” Seems to me that this could be interpreted to support the behavior. What is necessary? For what? Seems like it might be necessary to let your eyes show, but nothing else. A strict interpretation from the english translation, original intent is up for debate.

    And Sura 5: 52.
    “O ye who believe ! take not the Jews and the Christians for friends.” Pretty clear that non-believers are not accepted.
    Sura 9: 30.
    “And the Jews say, `Ezra is the son of ALLAH,’ and the Christians say, `the Messiah is the son of ALLAH;’ that is what they say with their mouths. They only imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before them. ALLAH’s curse be on them ! How they are turned away.”

    and..

    Sura 8: 13.
    When thy Lord revealed to the angels, saying, `I am with you; so make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Smite them above their necks, and smite off all finger-tips.
    8: 14. That is because they have opposed ALLAH and HIS Messenger. And whoso opposes ALLAH and HIS Messenger, Then ALLAH is surely Severe in retribution.
    8: 15. That is your punishment, taste it then; and remember that for disbelievers there is the punishment of the Fire.
    8: 16. O ye who believe ! when you meet those who disbelieve, advancing in force, turn not your backs to them.
    8: 17. And whoso turns his back to them on such a day, unless manoeuvring for battle or turning to join another company, he indeed draws upon himself the wrath of ALLAH, and Hell shall be his abode. And an evil resort it is.

    and..

    Qur’an (9:29) – “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

    —–

    I’m not trying to start a fight, here, I just want to understand.

    • As is often done with the Bible, Quranic content can be taken out of context and used to support various viewpoints. To understand it, you need to read it with a knowledge of the historical context – we’re a long way from 7th century desert tribal life so you can’t cut and paste it onto modern society, the world has evolved. Karen Armstrong’s “Muhammad: A biography of the prophet” really helped me to understand the timeline and climate that led to the revelation of certain verses, without being preachy or over-simplifying things. You also need to remember that it’s not a linear text. By separating the unchanging, core messages from the historical material you will get a sense of the fundamentals of Islam: Peace, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness.
      All religions have one thing in common: they have a message of love and good at their core. It’s Man who continually fights and kills over the specifics. Quite how the issue of whether women wear a piece of cloth on their heads can overshadow rape, killing, racism and corruption will always be a mystery to me.

      • I often hear Muslims use the old “taken out of context” line when certain uncomfortable verses are mentioned. It’s very problematic to cite interpretation, context, or translation solely in the cases of verses dealing with concepts that are an affront to our more modern, liberal ethics. If God didn’t mean the disbelievers will burn eternally (with explicit descriptions to boot), or fight and kill the polytheists, etc., then what did he mean? If God said not to befriend or marry non-Muslims, isn’t his message supposed to be eternal, and a guidance for all times? Did God change, or did we? And if everything is a matter of historical context, how then is any of it relevant to our lives now?

        • I understand how interpretation, context and translation cause a problem for you, I’ve encountered the same problems. But that’s what separates a religion from a a dogma. I would rather arrive at my own understanding of something than be told what to think. It’s short-sighted to think there can only be one level of meaning – even an episode of The Simpsons holds different messages depending on the maturity of it’s audience. Have you ever verbally painted a picture to illustrate a point? Have you ever tailored what you say to your audience? And as for historical context rendering things irrelevant to the modern age… perhaps you’d like to take that one up with a historian.

      • Would you please explain further about the context of the verses mentioned by Lee so you can proclaim that “Nowhere in my reading have I come across the instruction to defend God, Islam, its prophet, or for that matter, to cover my hair.” Thank you.

        • I’ve done my reading – you do yours. If your curiosity is genuine and you have an open mind, this won’t be a problem.

          • I’m on your side in this argument, and your response to these commenters offends even me. Telling someone to read Karen Armstrong is not the most encouraging of advice (she is largely hokum, academically) – and I think, having introduced the subject of hijab and friendliness with non-Muslims, you should at least be prepared to discuss those examples in further details and discuss how you came to your belief that they are not mandatory. I think these people asking are in good faith, and by refusing to answer them, you seem to be unable to. You also seem to be contradicting the whole point of your article.

          • A very good point Jenny . However, the response from expatlogue was the usual aggressive shut down that you get when you ask an uncomfortable but reasonable question. All is nice and friendly until then, it’s a pity, but eventually you will always hit a brick wall.

          • Jenny, I was unaware of questions surrounding the credibility of Karen Armstrong’s academic background. I couldn’t find anything on the web. Perhaps you could enlighten me. Gary could you point out my agressive responses please.

          • The above comment is the one I was referring to. It is a closing down of the discussion in an arrogant and rather childish manner. I think it might have been more intellectually honest of you to engage with the commentator. I think it reveals three things about you -that your reading is limited, that your curiosity is not genuine to the extent that it is restricted and ceases where discoveries you make do not accord with your dogma. And that you appear not to have an open mind. Brick wall.

          • If you are referring to my reply to Q’s comment, I’ve already explained to Lee that a knowledge of the historical context is needed to understand verses from the Quran and I’ve mentioned a source I found helpful. There’s no need for me to personally spoonfeed people a detailed historical account they’re capable of researching for themselves if curiosity compels them. I can’t “gift” you with an understanding – that’s a personal journey you make alone. What I think is childish is the reeling off of badly sourced/inaccurately referenced Quranic quotes followed by petulant demands for them to be explained when really, the interest in understanding them doesn’t stretch beyond seeking to confirm existing prejudices about them. I think that shows a lack of an open mind. Brick wall.

          • Sorry for my late reply. I have read Armstrong’s but I also read The Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. You are free to judge whether my curiosity is genuine or not. I see you have written quite a lot, why don’t you just write a bit more to answer my question. Because this is the heart of the problems, lady. Some moslems acted bad with reference to Quranic texts, other moslems with genuine willingness fighting to say that Quran should be read contextually are condemned to death because of heresy. All of this mess is your religion’s business but hey, the mess has spread. They killed people hardly connected to your religion with reference to Quranic texts. Now, your answer and the tone of your answer to my question doesn’t show a gentle yet strong voice I seek in Islam.

      • There is nothing in Islamic history, time line, or whatever you think there is that teaches peace. I’ve been studying Islam since the age of 12, I was born in a wahabi Muslim family. Tell us, In what context it is ok to say:
        “8:55 For the worst of creatures in the sight of Allah are those who reject Him: They will not believe.”
        “98:6 Surely those who disbelieve from among the people of the Book and the polytheists shall be in the fire of hell, abiding therein; they are the worst of creatures.”
        Do you have any idea how such verses spread hatred and arrogance among the believers like a virus? what kind of a religion teaches such nonsense? and dont forget your pact with Allah when you become muslim:
        “9:111 Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this, that they shall have the garden; they fight in Allah’s way, so they slay and are slain; a promise which is binding on Him in the Taurat and the Injeel and the Quran; and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Rejoice therefore in the pledge which you have made; and that is the mighty achievement.”
        What kind of a narcissist teaches this nonsense and in what context it is ok to teach hatred and arrogance:
        “3:31-32 Say: If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your faults, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful
        Say: Obey Allah and the Apostle; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers.”
        3:110 You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah; and if the followers of the Book had believed it would have been better for them; of them (some) are believers and most of them are transgressors.

        I rejected this narcissism, arrogance, hatred, violence this religion teaches, when I realised this is snot who I am, I am better than what Allah/quran/Islam teaches me. I have better moral values than its fucked up morality.

        • Your second sentence explains the first. Wahhabism is a fundamentalist dogma born out of an alliance between an 18th century theologian and an Arabian tribal ruler. It was, and continues to be, a politically motivated movement. I’m glad you rejected it.

  12. Some proper research needs to be done my friend. yes no doubt a very good artcle,but yes there are some rules and principes tht need to be followed. Yes muslims are to defend Islam and Alllah and His Prophet (p.b.u.h.) but without destructing property and killing others(no way). First of all to understand your din is very important ,as you said, with the right reference. To be guided one needs to follow his teacher and in Islam this teacher is defined as maulana or auliya Allah, and we cannot deny that. Let me ask you How can one follow a religion without help of a teacher? Can one recite and learn Quran independantly? No my friend one has to seek help from the religious elders to learn such vast and full of wisdom holy Book Quran. Firstly we must always pray to our Lord,ALLAH, to guide us to the straight path. ameen
    The rest of your article was great. May Allah give you and me better understanding of Islam. Ameen

    • Why in order to understand Islam does one have to turn to elders? And should the elders in question be Sunni, Shia, Ismaili or Ahmadiyah? And if Sunni should they be Wahabi or Hanbali or Zaidi? But you get the point that the choice of an elder or even having an elder rests with the individual and her or his conscience. Now I should clarify that I stand outside the Umma as a Jew and think that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation response of Little Mosque on the Prairie with its Muslim community from at least five different countries (and only one of them Arab) was the right response. As a Jew there are Jews plus the Israeli government of which I am utterly ashamed, Surely the Muslim community is entitled to have Muslims of which they too are utterly ashamed and I see the man who thinks that Muslims must pursue terrorists because they share the same religion, ostensibly, as simply in error.

      • David, I believe you are talking about a comment I made when referring to Muslims stepping up and trying to subdue the terrorists. If not Muslims, then who? Obviously they don’t want the Americans there. There are thousands, maybe millions of Muslim extremists who will stop at nothing short of creating a Muslim world by any means necessary, they are not going to listen to an infidel telling them they are wrong, so, who else has the resources to educate or eradicate these extremists?

  13. Reblogged this on miguel in belgium and commented:
    Priceless!!!!!!!

  14. Fantastic article. Thank you for standing up for real islam.

  15. Good points.

    Two things spring to my mind.

    When our prophet (pbuh) was stoned in Taif. Gabriel asks his permission to demolish the town he says “No!. They would not do it if they knew”. This is his reply to humiliation (not only by words, physically as well).
    As muslims we are ordered to model him (sunnah), this is the way to react against humiliation and insult.

    Two of outstanding figures of a cemaat (community) of Pakistan come to Ikbal and asks his opinion how to spread the word.
    “You want to spread His word?” asks Ikbal
    “Then announce that you do not represent Islam!”

    Prophet’s legacy is to save souls. Jihad is the struggle to do it.

    I wonder how many souls the “protestors” saved by their actions and by the message they gave with their actions.

    I wonder if they do it for the sake of religion or to save their hurt ego and pride?

  16. I found that really interesting. Thank you. I used to work with a wonderful guy who was very patient about my questions on his Islamic faith and I learned so much from him, particularly how there is not just one Islamic faith but people have slightly different beliefs depending on the branch of Islam they follow.

    It’s also important to point out that fundamentalism is not exclusive to Islam. Many branches of religion have their extremes. I wish we would spend more time hearing about the rest of Islam (and the majority of it) rather than the minority. I guess it’s not newsworthy though.

  17. And writing what shocks, what sells, dangerously perpetuates the myths and fuels the aggression…
    Awesome post, and lots I didn’t know. Thank you.
    Although I fear it will change nothing… :(

    • It will change nothing … because right or wrong, the people who are perpetrating acts of terrorism are by and large muslim and they perform these acts in the name of their religion. If a bunch of radical Christians were out bombing buildings and performing suicide bombings, etc. and doing it in the name of Christ, there would be a similar backlash against Christian religions.

  18. I didn’t realize other converts felt the same way. This is very relieving> How can I contact you personally, if possible, to hear more and share experiences and thoughts?

  19. I’m tired of listening to Muslim apologists, this is YOUR problem, take care of it. These are not Christians or Buddhists or Jews acting as terrorists, it is Muslims. They are killing people because they are not Muslim. If these terrorists are the small minority as so many claim, then the majority should get off their rear ends and educate or eradicate them, if not, then you should be showing massive support for the ones that are having to do your dirty work.

  20. Nowhere in my reading have I come across the instruction to defend God, Islam, its prophet, or for that matter, to cover my hair.
    • There is no Quranic injunction to convert the entire planet to Islam or even to create an Islamic State.

    The above are quotes from your article, if this is true, then can you explain the passages from the Quran noted in the following pages?

    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/013-forced-conversion.htm

    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm

    Either I am having a hard time understanding these passages or you haven’t read very much of the book.

    • You acknowledge that these are the actions of terrorists, so why not condemn the terrorists instead of blaming a quarter of the world’s population? They kill muslims and non-muslims and twist religious concepts to excuse their behaviour. They’re a global problem that can only be combatted by a collective effort, pinning the blame for them on someone else gets us nowhere.
      I’m not alone in my belief that my religion is a private matter, I think this is the reason so many moderate muslims have stayed quiet for so long. You say I should be showing support for extremist opposition; why do you think I wrote this article? I keep hearing non-muslims calling for moderate muslims to stand up and condemn extremism, yet when we do we’re subjected to religious discrimination and hate-speech. Is it any wonder the majority just keep their heads down?
      And for the record; if you want an accurate, balanced understanding of the Quran don’t source your quotes from a site called “The Politically Incorrect Truth About Islam: One really messed up religion” #justsaying

      • I do blame the terrorists for these acts, but it’s not my religion that they are dragging through the gutter. My problem is that the people whose religion is being dragged through the gutter are seemingly doing nothing about it. I see no Muslims out rounding these terrorist up and bringing them to justice, I see nothing from them but for the most part lip service. I see the ones that are in the Middle East that are bringing medical care to some that have never had it, building schools for girls that never had the opportunity to be educated, being killed in the name of Islam by the ones that they are trying to help, and I still see very little support from the Muslims. Where are the troops from the oil rich Muslim countries? Why are they not upset about what the Muslim terrorists are doing in the name of Islam?
        You don’t care for the sources that I used, I didn’t really pay attention to them, I was looking for quotes from the Quran an they were at the top of the search list. Here is a different site, no rhetoric, just the verses. After reading 9:1-11 I get the same result. If you have a site you prefer I would be happy to check it out.

        http://quran.com/9/1-11

        • Apologies for my delay in replying but I wanted to answer your comment properly. Of course you don’t see muslims condemning terrorist acts, or putting the pieces back together afterwards – the media gets no mileage out of this. Unless you live among muslims, talk to them about their feelings and fears, or closely follow events through a number of different sources you would never know. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

          How do you explain the thousands of letters from muslims delivering messages of condolence and apology to the family of Christopher Stevens? The peaceful protesters (who far out-numbered the thugs) condemning the violence who didn’t warrant airtime? What about the Twitter-managed clean-up that took place in Pakistan, undertaken by the country’s young adults? https://vimeo.com/50020581 Or the humorous response to the hashtag #muslimrage started by Newsweek in an effort to feed the flames of unrest? What about Salman Taseer who gave his life opposing Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws? Like you, I am frustrated with/bored by the endemic victimhood and insidious “Us & Them” mentality propounded by people calling themselves muslims. There are many of us struggling to be heard above the white noise of the radicals, and by ignoring us you play into the hands of the Islamists. I am a muslim reaching out to non-muslims, encouraging understanding and unity and trying to expose the extremists for what they are and all you want to do is use individual verses from the Quran lifted out of context to try and prove them right.

          You admit you don’t check the veracity of your sources and believe whatever’s at the top of a Google search list. You look for simplistic answers to complex questions. “Where are the troops from the oil rich Muslim countries? Why are they not upset about what the Muslim terrorists are doing in the name of Islam?” Is it lost on you that most of the world’s oil reserves are in the Middle East? If you had the keys to the global safe deposit box, would you welcome democracy and the possibility of that wealth being placed in the hands of someone else? It seems you don’t understand the difference between Islam and Islamism.

          With regard to your quote; I have said before that to understand the Quran you have to apply historical context to what you’re studying. The verses you mention are concerning the Battle of Tabuk and relate to it specifically, you cannot just lift and apply them to 21st century life. But radicals know that non-muslims have no knowledge of this and use that ignorance against them.

  21. Hello there Aisah.

    The Islam you discovered or earned by way of studying carefully the Quranic text and comparing with silly human interpretations, not to mention agenda driven understanding is indeed the raw and original version, as captured in a peotic manner in the Quran.

    I wish to just say you need to bear in mind there are some 1.5 billion “muslims” and out of this, only perhaps 1 million or so discovered the true essence of Islam, meaning a very small minority.

    And this smalll san minority is pitching their voice against about 1,5 billion muslims thoroughly brainwshed to believe in all the wrong things about Islam, which they will never discover as they have not the abilty to learn, and if told they are wrong, will likely throw petrol bombs at us.,

    It is nice to discover the beauty of islam yes, but i’m afraid is too little too late and the world is now infested with distorted muslims, some we cannot even consider muslims, whose aim in life is to use Islam to punish others.

    is there a way out ? Or perhaps it better to ask can we solve human stupidity ?

    All the best to you.

    • Jalil, if what you are saying is true, then you are saying that you believe 99.4% of Muslims are wrong in the way they worship and interpret their religious teachings and that only .6% know the true meaning of Islam. Maybe it is the .6% that do not know the true teaching but are trying to turn Islam into something it is not. It may be time to take a good, hard look at Islam and decide if it is the true religion you want to follow.

  22. I really enjoyed reading this blog post and I have also read each and every comment.
    The only thing I disagree with is about “hair” – I do believe we are meant to cover it.
    It is an ongoing dilemma for me at present. When I get it clear in my head (and perhaps on my head) I will write about it – I hope sooner rather than later.
    Liska x
    @NewMumOnline

  23. Hi Aisha,
    thought your post was excellent. Don’t know if you’re involved with the Muslim Writers Awards, but if not might be worth checking out.

  24. Thanks for writing this. I’ve just moved to a muslim country, and although I consider myself open minded and liberal, I must admit to having some sort of subconscious squeamish feelings about coming to live in a place where Islam is the national religion. Of course my logical brain thought that I was being ridiculous, but buried somewhere deep in my subconscious were worries about discrimination, misogyny, violence and of course, terrorism.
    I hate that i wrote that, but it’s the truth.
    And I know exactly where these subconscious notions came from.
    Anyway, I’ve discovered that my new home is the most lovely, calm, peaceful wonderful place, the muslims I’ve come across, ardent believers, head-coverers, and secular alike, are for the most part, wonderful people. I truly hope that this experience has erased my nasty subconscious notions.
    This experience has been like my own personal “rebranding” exercise.

    • It was honest of you to admit to your feelings and I can understand the reasons for them. Don’t dismiss them as “nasty subconscious notions”, they’re there because of information you’ve absorbed. You’re now in a position to either confirm or dismiss them and restructure your perception. As a muslim, I would also have misgivings about moving to a muslim country – extremism has entered everyday life to the point where it now goes mostly unchallenged, even in secular societies.
      But discrimination, misogyny, violence and terrorism exist in all cultures. The best thing you can do is try to keep that open mind and treat everyone as an individual, regardless of religion or nationality. I hope you’re settling in ok and starting to feel more comfortable.

  25. Thank you for such a frank, well-written and well-researched article and responses to the comments. I am living in an Islamic country and am actively learning more about Islam from Muslim friends and my own research. Many of the points you mentioned about have inspired me to research more and have re-affirmed my belief that Islam, like all other religions, is interpreted differently depending on the individual and their own cultural upbringing and traditions.

    I am increasingly concerned about the fear, anger and misunderstandings not only between the Islamic and non-Islamic world, but within it as well. I was raised Christian, and I can find many similarities in arguments going on within denominations in that faith as well. I can relate to your frustration and your question, “Will the real Muslims please stand up?” However, it’s so unfortunate that, as you mentioned, the media picks up not on the internal arguments and responses of the average Muslim, but rather the violence and fury that most often come from extremists. I feel that there is a sort of vicious circle of anger, protest and fear between the West and the Islamic world, and that this cycle is being perpetuated by our media and the scenes and voices they choose to bring to the masses.

    Thank you for your post and for sharing your views. It is especially interesting to hear the perspectives of a Westerner and a convert who has obviously spent a lot of time and thought researching her faith.

  26. This was a nice post. However despite the rhetoric in the media, there is a grain of truth to the things that are said in the media.

    For example, polygamy is allowed in Islam. It’s not just a cultural thing. The Quran itself specifically addresses the issue: “And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course.” Surah 4 Verse 3.

    How do you reconcile your faith in Islam with the fact that it allows for polygamy?

    Another issue is that Muhammad married his wife Aisha when she was 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9. This is verified in one of the hadiths (where Aisha herself narrates). This I find the hardest accept about Islam.

    Some argue that Muhammad was simply following the customs of his time but Muslims are supposed to look up to Muhammad as a role model. The general consensus is that if Muhammad did it and Allah did not consider it a sin, then its okay for a Muslim to emulate.

    So today even, countries like Saudi Arabia allow child marriage because they are emulating the prophet.

    So I’m curious as to how you reconcile these things with your faith in Islam.

    • Thankyou for your comment and your interest. In answer to your first question, the verse you quoted has a strong context. It’s referring to orphans. In a feudal tribal society where it was common for men to have scores of wives, and where women relied on male protection, my understanding is that it sought to channel that protection where it was needed. But even so, it sets limits, and encourages caution and reflection regarding what would be required by each wife. At this point, those benefitting from common-sense should be debating whether it’s within their capabilities, or even if it’s what they’d actually want.
      When you take this with the statement further on in the sura: “You shall never be able to do justice among women, no matter how much you desire to do so.” 4:129, it seems clear to me that rather than encourage polygamy, the Qur’an leans towards monogamy. In a polygamous society it was sowing seeds for gradual change.

      With regard to your second question, I’d like to direct you to a thought-provoking article by Myriam Francois-Cerrah concerning the relationship between Muhammad & Aisha

  27. Thank you for this post. I am a nonbeliever who married into a wonderfully tolerant, yet devout Muslim family. I appreciate your insights on the topic. My husband and I do believe that there is a huge schism within the Muslim community, however, and that the battles raging on in Egypt (where he is from), for example, is as much about this as it is anything else.

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  2. World Gratitude Day 2012 « Change « Adventures in Expat Land - [...] 26 Sept 2012 to reflect Aisha Ashraf’s great article ‘The Truth About Islam’ on [...]
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