9 Myths You’ve Heard about Muslims (The Truth From A Muslim Mom)

2013 December 7

Welcome to our 3rd installment of the #MormonMuslimMoms Conversation.

When Amanda and I first dreamed up this series we knew there would be some ‘hard’ conversations and we agreed to tackle the myths and misconceptions people have about our respective religions. I simply encourage you to read all of Amanda’s words here and if you have questions please ASK. But I also ask that you be gentle and kind in your words, respecting her sacred beliefs.

You are going to enjoy learning all of this in her words. I know I already have!

***

After a week away, Carissa and I are picking our series up this weekend by discussing common myths about our faiths. There’s certainly more myths circulating but I tried to pick those that I have heard most often. I’m not picking these myths apart scripturally, but in practice and context. I believe that any text can be contorted any way someone chooses, especially when relying on translations of texts. Also, this isn’t meant to be a critique of scripture and practice of Islam. I’m addressing these myths on a basic, human level.

  1. Muslims Worship a Different God than Christians; the moon, Muhammad etc.

    I usually give people the benefit of the doubt when I hear this comment but in fact no, Muslims do not worship a different God. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all worship the same single deity known in English as God. In Arabic the word for God is Allah.  It’s the same word for God used by the world’s Arabic speaking Christians. Fun fact, 10% of the Arab worlds’ population is Christian, that’s 14 million people, more than the entire Jewish population in the world. Whether you say Allah, God, or Yahweh it’s referring to the same entity.  Muslims (and Jews) use a lunar cycle to time our calendar years. In the Islamic calculation, each month has either 29 or 30 days. Traditionally, the first day of each month is the day (beginning at sunset) of the first sighting of the crescent moon shortly after sunset. If the moon is not observed immediately after the 29th day of a month (either because clouds block its view or because the western sky is still too bright when the moon sets), then the day that begins at that sunset is the 30th. This was a way for people to track time and has continued today. But no, we do not worship the moon.

    Likewise, Muslims do not worship the prophet Muhammad. He is revered as a great man, who delivered the word of God to people. But, he is not God, nor do Muslims elevate him as such. It is against Islam to worship anyone but God, so this notion goes against the very principles of our faith.

  2. Muslims Hate Women

    There are A LOT of myths that surround women and Islam.  I’ll be the first to admit, I believed most of them for a long time. In reality, women are not valued less than men because of Islam. There are many cultures that are Islamic and do not treat women well.  Some use religion as justification for their actions but that does not mean it is right. There is a hadith (a saying of the Prophet Muhammad) that says;

    “A man once asked the Prophet to whom he should show the most kindness. The Prophet replied: “Your mother, next your mother, next your mother, and then your father.” (Sunan of Abu-Dawood)”

    Some of the myths that I have heard include; a male child is more loved than a female child, Muslim women have no rights, women are second class citizens, abuse of women is acceptable in Islam, etc. Are there places in the world that all of these things are true? Yes. Is it because of religion? No. Culture plays a major role in how women and men live their lives.

    Islam is very clear that it is a man’s responsibility to care for his family financially and for a woman to care for her children and home. This doesn’t mean a woman is worth less than a man but that there are roles for them each to play in a family. If a woman chooses to work, she is permitted to do so, and the money that she earns is hers and hers alone.  She is not required to use this money towards family expenses – this is her husbands’ responsibility.

  3. Muslim Women Must Wear Hijab (AKA That “thing” on your head)

    When I say Muslim woman what do you imagine? My guess is this;

    Muslim Niqab Woman

    Or at least this;

    Amanda

    Hey that’s me!  When we moved to Morocco one of the very first questions people asked was, “oh so you have to wear that thing on your head then?” Um, no.  Believe it or not, the majority of Muslim women CHOOSE to wear hijab. Some terms; hijab is the term used to describe the conservative way of dress and behavior for Muslim women, and in the US refers to the scarf. Niqab refers to the facial veil plus headscarf, while burqa means the full facial covering, including mesh over the eyes (most common in Afghanistan).  Whether because of personal conviction, family tradition, cultural norms, or in some cases state mandate (so that’s not really choosing but its one reason) women cover themselves. Would you be surprised to know there are Muslim countries that BAN the wearing of hijab and niqab? Tunisia and Turkey are two examples.

    The bottom line is this is a choice that Muslim women make.  Here in Morocco, I’m just as likely to see a Muslim girl wearing skinny jeans and a t-shirt as I am to see a woman in niqab. Actually, I’m more likely to see the skinny-jean girls.

  4. A Man and his Wive(s)?

    polygamyIt’s easy to misunderstand Islamic traditions for marriage.  There are really two myths related to this topic.  First is that men purchase a woman as their wife. In Islam marriage is a contract more than it is a lovey dovey affair (though it can be that too!) Both parties lay down the terms of the agreement in a contract that once signed is essentially the marriage. A woman and her family specify the dowry, the amount that the husband must give to the wife (and her alone), and a set amount in case of divorce.  You can read more about marriage traditions on my earlier post on this subject. The woman and her family lay out their terms as to what the husband should provide.

    The second myth is that if you marry a Muslim man you’ll just become part of his harem of wives. It is true that in Islam men are permitted to take up to four wives. However, there are limitations and requirements that must be met; such as a man must be able to provide equally to all wives – this means financially and with his time.  If one wife gets a house, the other must too.  In earlier times this was a way to ensure widows and orphans were cared for and protected, not to satisfy some sexual lust of men. In modern society polygamy is rarely practiced.  In many Muslim countries, men must go before a judge and prove they are capable of meeting the demands Islam sets out. There’s a big problem with delayed marriage in the Muslim world because men can’t afford to get married due to economics. Their ability to provide for multiple marriages is even lower.  Does it still happen? Yes, but it’s the exception rather than the norm.

    Marrying an Arab Muslim man means people have a lot of assumptions.  I tackled this subject earlier this year.

  5. There is Forced Segregation

    prayer positionsThis is another issue that boils down to culture.  In some cultures there is very strict segregation between men and women. Even in families they might not eat together. Then, there are others where this concept is just obscure. Women and men are segregated when praying, with women in another room or the back of the prayer hall.  This isn’t because they are hiding, it’s because Muslim prayer is very physical, involving bending over and prostrating. Few western women I know would want to do that in front of a man!

  6. Muslims Don’t Believe in Jesus

    A lot of people are really surprised to find out this isn’t true.  Muslims very much believe and revere Jesus as a prophet of Islam. In fact Jesus is mentioned more times in Islamic scripture than Muhammad. Maryam (Mary) the mother of Jesus, is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an and one of the chapters of the Qur’an is titled Maryam. We however also believe that Jesus had no earthly father. Like Jews and Christians, Muslims also believe that at the end of days Jesus will come again.  We however do not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus.  Some more basics about this question and Islam? Visit my earlier post here.

  7. Most Muslims are Arab, Most Arabs are Muslim

    Lots of people use these terms interchangeably when in fact they’re very different. Only 20% of the world’s Muslim population is Arab. Put it this way, 22% of the world’s Christian population is African, but I’m guessing when you think Christian someone in Africa doesn’t come to mind. It’s easy to connect Arab and Islam, as the language of Islam is Arabic and many of Islam’s holy sites are in Arabic countries. But, most Muslims live in the Asian-Pacific region; Indonesia, Pakistan, India etc. Indonesia has 200 million Muslims and the Indian sub-continent? Half a billion. But then most Arabs are Muslim right? Well kind of.  But remember above where I noted that there are about 1 million Arab Christians?

  8. Islamic countries are “backwards” and offer no value to society.

    Muslim Inventions
    Some of the greatest additions to human kind have come from Muslims. Science and math wouldn’t exist were it not for Muslims. During Europe’s Dark Ages, the Muslim world was experiencing tremendous advancement. The fields of geography, philosophy, mathematics, medicine, and architecture were all touched. But you’re saying that was so long ago, look at them now, still stuck in the dark ages. Much of the Muslim world also lies in the developing world, and has only gained independence from western powers in the last century. Many of the Muslim countries we know today were not created by drawing lines that took into consideration ethnic or tribal boundaries, they were surreptitiously drawn by exiting colonial powers. There are many moderate, progressive voices shaping the Muslim world today, but too often their voices are not heard by people seeking a more “news worthy” story.

    Source: http://www.1001inventions.com/media/educational-posters

     

  9. All Muslims hate the West and want to destroy it.

    This is probably the largest generalization and myth that is out there. It’s hardly realistic to even think that 1 billion people would collectively hate a place. Based on the Muslims I know and have interacted with, the majority barely think about “the west.” They’re more concerned about their immediate family, their careers, and other concerns – probably the same things you worry about day to day. A lot of Muslims do equate the west with problems such as pornography, violence, and broken homes. They might hate/dislike those specific traits of culture but there are also things they admire.

 

That was really long! If you’ve stuck with me – thank you! If you’ve got questions please feel free to ask.  Carissa and I will be taking to social media again next week to ask and answer additional questions.  Also be sure to come by my site tomorrow to read Carissa’s post about LDS myths.

Follow Amanda: MarocMama Facebook and MarocMama Twitter

Find me:  GoodNCrazy Facebook and @CarissaRogers Twitter

 

 

 

 

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39 Responses leave one →
  1. December 7, 2013

    I have really been enjoying this series. Thank you both so much for sharing about your religions. I have learned so much!
    Twitter: aheartfull

    • December 7, 2013

      Thanks Jen! I’m so glad. We started out mainly doing this for ourselves, our own curiosity for each other’s religion. But realized others might like to know and enjoy what we were learning?!

    • December 9, 2013

      Love to hear this! Thank you for joining us!

  2. December 7, 2013

    Great educative post tackling some potentially tricky subjects without getting heavy. Keep up the good work dispelling ignorance and misinformation. I too am a white western woman who converted to Islam and married a muslim man.
    Embracing Islam has been an education that’s taken me beyond what many ‘born’ muslims could help me with, many of whom practice a faith deeply rooted in cultural mores masquerading as religious obligations. Learning to differentiate between the two has been quite a ride!

    • December 7, 2013

      Really?
      Great to hear? Do you live in the US or outside the US?

    • December 10, 2013

      I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it. I tried to keep it light while being informational!

    • Linda Kovacevic permalink
      December 28, 2013

      “many of whom practice a faith deeply rooted in cultural mores masquerading as religious obligations”

      I love that you identified this. I believe the same is true for the Mormon faith and and probably every other organized religion.

  3. December 9, 2013

    I’ve really enjoyed these articles. I’m learning a ton. Keep them coming!

  4. Dee permalink
    December 9, 2013

    Amanda, I know you were raised Christian. Could you talk about why you decided to convert to Islam and what your thought processes were in getting to that final decision?

    • December 10, 2013

      I should probably write a whole blog on this subject but I’ll do my best here! The first time I went into a mosque I had a really spiritual experience that at the time was wonderful but I brushed off. As I dated my husband I wanted to learn more just so that I understood what I was getting myself into! My studies led me to have a lot of questions about Christianity and when I went to my religious leaders, they couldn’t offer me answers that truly answered my questions. Ultimately, I chose to convert because I believed in the basic tenets of Islam. I find myself to be a very spiritual person, I think all Abrahamic faith traditions have built on each other to create what exists in our world today. Am I the best Muslim, no. I try to focus on the core of the faith, what it means to me, my family, and the world around us. I hope that’s a decent answer!

      • December 10, 2013

        YES. Amanda I’d like to hear the whole spiritual journey… I know you have written about your romantic journey with your husband and some of the conversion story thought right? Where is the link (s) to that part?

  5. Ona permalink
    December 11, 2013

    What a cool idea you guys had for posting these! Can you tell me more about what led you to believe the first topic on your list though? From all of the scholarly articles I have read and research I have done on comparing Allah of the Quran and Yhwh of the Bible, I came to a much different conclusion!

    • December 12, 2013

      Hi Ona. Religious scholars have agreed that Islam, just like Judaism and Christianity are all monotheistic religions that believe in one single same entity referred to as God. Our Quran, and many of our religious texts are built on the Torah and Bible, we believe that Islam is the third and final revelation of faith from God. I’ve had some, specifically Christians say no that their God is different than ours, which to the best of my knowledge is based on the concept of the triune (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit as one). I know there are a lot of interpretations, and I’m not a religious scholar but from what I’ve learned and studied, yes I do believe God is God whether you impart other entities with him or not.

      • Ona permalink
        December 13, 2013

        Well, there are some fundamental characteristic differences between Yhwh and Allah. The Torah used in relation with the Quran even has some major differences than the Torah in the Bible. For one example, the description of the sacrifice of Abraham vs. Isaac. But you are so right in saying that God is God, there is only one! Its the study that leads to which “interpretation” of Him is correct. Basic law of non-contradiction from Aristotle. Anyways, I am a theology nerd and just thought I could encourage us both to do some more research into these topics. 🙂 Thank you for engaging the world to even think about topics like this, many people do not even give them the time of day! 🙂

        • December 13, 2013

          I agree… “I could encourage us both to do some more research into these topics. 🙂 Thank you for engaging the world to even think about topics like this, many people do not even give them the time of day!”

          It’s the one HUGE thing I’m taking away from this whole series. 🙂

  6. Chris Quincy permalink
    December 12, 2013

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Tara permalink
    December 12, 2013

    Very interesting! I love learning more about what other people believe. I was only really surprised by number 6, I didn’t realize what the Muslim opinion on Jesus was. Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. December 12, 2013

    That one was a surprise to me too!
    Amanda has been talking a little bit about Christmas on her blog even lately?
    Thanks for your input. 🙂

  9. December 13, 2013

    Great post! Although I’d realised that a lot of the misconceptions you mentioned were myths, I certainly wasn’t aware of the background to what really goes on that you described. I feel that I’ve learned a lot reading this.

  10. Bree permalink
    December 13, 2013

    Thank you for this article! It really has answered a lot of misconceptions I had believed were true!

    I have a question: I find it strange that Muslims can believe that Jesus existed, but at the same time will persecute or harm a Muslim that converts to Christianity.

    http://ldsliving.com/story/73825-my-name-used-to-be-muhammad-one-mans-journey-from-muslim-to-mormon

    Is this treatment cultural, or doctrinal?

    Thank you!

    • December 13, 2013

      Bree, I fully acknowledge that this does exist, it’s hard for me to comment on that specific article for a couple reasons, at the time of events I was a small child so it’s hard for me to know what the historical context at the time was. I do know that a lot of the reactions Muslim people have to other faiths, is in big part cultural and a lack of education. As Muslims, we’re told to read the Torah and the Bible, as well as the Qu’ran. We’re told that Christians and Jews are our cousins as people of the Book. Leaving Islam is forbidden. I won’t deny this. But you’ll find similar scripture in Christian and Jewish texts. The biggest difference I see is that in many Muslim countries, the law is built around Islamic law, whereas you don’t find this as common in other majority faith countries. In secular Muslim countries, like Turkey there is no legal application of apostasy (won’t be jailed or punished).

      In relation to the author’s Egypt experience, there are serious horror stories from Egypt in past decades (it’s part of what led to their revolution) and this happened to people of all faiths and nationalities. Please know I’m not condoning this, just stating there’s a lot more to this than it happened because he converted. Nigeria has long had infighting between Christians and Muslims so my feeling is much of what the author experienced in his homeland was due to cultural, historical (how can you become one of our enemies?), and familial norms. — I really appreciated that the author included a closing paragraph that points out he knows that there are many other Muslims in the world who are good and he considers them brothers and sisters.

      One final note, what the author experienced was state sanctioned making it difficult to digest, but I know of many many people who have converted to Islam and subsequently been shunned and essentially ex-communicated from their families and communities, lost their jobs, faced harassment, faced imprisonment for “suspicions”, etc in the United States. Personally I believe a person should choose the faith path that resonates with them without external interference but in reality this isn’t true for most.

      • Bree permalink
        December 13, 2013

        Thank you! I appreciate your forthrightness!

      • December 13, 2013

        Wow I agree. Amanda, thanks for tackling a hard point. Well said. And it reminds me that people of all faiths are HUMAN and imperfect. certainly I am, and I’m doing my best. 🙂

  11. Sharon permalink
    December 13, 2013

    Wow! What a fantastic project you two have been working on! I loved reading about the Misconceptions of Muslims! So intriguing! I had no clue that in the Muslim faith you revered Christ as a prophet. The segregation explanation was also very interesting. As an LDS missionary I had the opportunity to visit a Ramadan service with a Muslim woman in the neighborhood and I remember feeling that the Muslim faith and traditions are really not that different than some of our mormon tradtions. Thank you so much for the new insight!

    • December 13, 2013

      I”m flat out completely shocked by some of the similarities? I was also surprised as I spoke to Jewish friends of similarities there as well. There is truth everywhere when you can open your eyes and positively look closely. Thanks Sharon!

    • December 29, 2013

      Really glad you took the time to read. Also makes me smile to know you visited a mosque. I’ve learned in this project there are so many people out there who are open minded and gracious. Something I really needed to feel!

  12. Helene permalink
    December 13, 2013

    Beautifully written! I have many Muslim friends that I love dearly and it’s nice to see that the misconceptions can be honestly and lovingly addressed. Now I have a misconception for you that you wrote in your article. Jews believe that in the end days a Messiah (Mashiach – anointed one) will come but he is not a Savior (Moshiahdo – helper, savior, saver). Jews believe that God is such that he could never take human body, like Jesus. The Jewish concept of the Messiah ranges from the idea that he will be a human born from House of David all the way to a time of utopia, depending on the form of Judaism you observe. Thank you for your article and I’m excited to see your next installment!

    • December 29, 2013

      Hi Helene. Thanks for sharing! Our concept of Allah is very similar to how you describe Jesus for Jews. I have to admit I didn’t realize there was such a range of views there. I did know that there was the belief that Jesus would come as the Messiah, but that’s it.

  13. Linda Kovacevic permalink
    December 28, 2013

    I apologize for not reading the entire series, I just followed the link from facebook to this article, but I was wondering, were you born to the muslim faith or did you convert with your marriage? And if you converted, do you have the same perspective as someone born to the faith? Also, thank you for explaining number two- the muslim males’ financial responsibility. It was eye- opening.

    • December 29, 2013

      Hi Linda – I was not born Muslim, I converted almost 10 years ago, and it had nothing to do with my marriage – I was a non practicing Christian when I met my husband and chose to convert out of conviction but it was not expected or required.(though I could have added that as another myth!) On the second question, tough to answer. I’d say that there are certainly people born Muslim who have a similar perspective however, I’d also guess that because I have had different life experiences my perspective is also different from others. I don’t think a Muslim born in a rural Indonesian village (for example) has the same outlook as I do because we both have had different paths in life. Hope that makes sense!

  14. Kaitlyn permalink
    January 7, 2014

    Hi! I’m a Mormon and got here via the Mormon Myths post, I’m so glad I read this post! While I’ve never really harbored some of the harsher Muslim Myths, I was excited to read about some things, I didn’t know Jesus was in the Qu’ran! Cool 🙂 I’m off to read more, I’m interested in reading more about the Muslim relationship to Jesus. Also I liked learning why the genders are separated during prayer, it makes sense. Thanks again for the info.

    • January 7, 2014

      Well you just might be the first ‘positive’ person to come from that site!

      I’m sorry so many people felt so strongly about attacking, but I’m MUCH more happy with the positive response people gave surrounding Amanda’s beliefs. I agree I was very surprised at what I learned from her as well. Thank you so much for reading!

      • Kaitlyn permalink
        January 7, 2014

        I grew up in Las Vegas which is a complete melting pot of races, cultures and religions, so I was lucky enough to learn that most people’s cultures and religions aren’t as strange or scary as you might think. In fact I had no idea of the HORRIBLE misconceptions people have about my own religion until I was older. That has given me quite a bit of love and understanding for other’s religions I may not have always thought of in the best light. I didn’t always think the best of Muslims, I was 14 when 9/11 happened and there were a lot of misconceptions for my young mind to get through. As an adult I’ve really learned that the scarier things that happened are more due to cultural issues, not the root of the religion. Sort of like how the child abuser polygamists that claim they are Mormon, are not in fact condoned by our religion.

        • January 7, 2014

          Right. I always cringe when I hear people who think/assume ANY polygamist group is mainstream ‘Mormon’!
          I guess the big test would be could we still open our hearts/minds to a polygamist group/family like we are trying to do with other religions?
          That’s a hard one because it’s sort of like only slightly a different/similar religion… too close to home to try to appreciate? I dunno?

          Don’t get me wrong I’m just as fascinated by the ‘Sister Wives’ phenomenon as anyone else! 🙂

          I’m very happy to hear like myself you are seeing the Muslim faith as a faith and the people of the faith separately! 🙂

          • Kaitlyn permalink
            January 7, 2014

            I have no problem with people practicing polygamy in the vein of sister wives. I’m not advocating it, but I don’t really care what people choose to do. My only problem is with the compounds forcing 12 year old girls to marry their 50 year old cousins etc. It isn’t the polygamy that necessarily bothers me, but the child abuse.

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