9 Myths You’ve Heard about Muslims (The Truth From A Muslim Mom)
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.
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.
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.
Muslim Women Must Wear Hijab (AKA That “thing” on your head)
When I say Muslim woman what do you imagine? My guess is this;
Or at least this;
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.
A Man and his Wive(s)?
It’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.
There is Forced Segregation
This 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!
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.
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?
Islamic countries are “backwards” and offer no value to society.
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.
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.
- READ ALL OF Amanda’s Muslim Mom posts on Carissa’s GoodNCrazy.com Blog
- READ ALL OF Carissa’s Mormon Mom posts on Amanda’s MorocMama.com Blog