I was recently on Brother Green's website and his recent blog talked about "Misconceptions of Islam". Funny that it would be his topic of conversation as it seems to be one of the constants I seem to deal with on a day to day basis... what am I saying? It seems to be one of the constants that all Muslims deal with on a day to day basis. The one difference in my case is the fact that many of the misconceptions that I have been faced with are those that come from my family. Of course it would be unfair and unrealistic for me to think that my family wouldn't have questions, as mentioned before, they are miles away, and their only contact with Muslims is via CNN and the phone calls they get from their daughter. One source presents only the negative, the other (inshallah) the beauty of Islam. Unfortunately the power of the Media, the horrible images seen on TV and unfortunate actions of some seem to be pulling more weight...
This is where I get so saddened. Not only for Muslim's in that our identity in society has for the most part been formed by terrorism and birkas but that society as a whole has not taken the time to investigate what in that, is truth... Humans are so hungry for information they become like sponges and soak up whatever they hear, and accept it as valid. I see the same thing happen with society when they read celebrity magazines. "Jennifer Aniston loses 40lbs because of her dislike of anything she has to consume by chewing." Of course this headline is made-up and absolutely ridiculous, but if it were on the front of a magazine just watch how it sells as people want to 'get the latest.' Nobody who has purchased the magazine has ever met Jennifer Aniston but you can bet at some point during the week their conversation will be about her new 'eating habits.'
Do you see what I mean? How bizarre it is? Why is it that we as a society don't seem to have a need to make sure that what we read and see on TV is something we understand and or is something true? The whole world sees the negative things that are presented in the media about Muslim's, but how many people go and actually talk to a Muslim person about what is happening? How many take the time to ask if the acts of terrorism are conducive with the beliefs of Islam? I can speak for the people I know when I say very few.
There have been attrocities committed by all religious groups at some point in history, but it is clear we don't associate all members of that one group with the specific acts. Why then does it seem to happen with Muslims?
I know that I have moved away from the way I have been misunderstood recently by the common misconceptions of Islam into how Islam is misunderstood as a whole, but to me one is the direct result of the other. My family (and others too) is concerned for my safety and rights because of what they have been led to believe is true about Islam. I only wish I could help them to see this isn't the case. I am not talking about converting them either, I just mean trying to convince those around me that my being Muslim still means I can: Work, be educated (or pursue further education), leave my home without my husband escorting me, that I won't be locked in the house, that I will have rights, that I will be respected, that I have a role in the community, that if I were to move overseas I wouldn't be trapped never allowed to return, that I won't be beaten... (Only a few of the misconceptions I have been faced with.)
I just want people to see that I will still be me... that I AM still me. That I have seen the images the rest of the world sees on TV and I have read those newspaper articles... fortunately I have also read some of the books about Islam and what it really is. I have met Muslims who PRACTICE their faith in a way that is true to the religion. I know sisters from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Trinidad, Northern Africa and Canada and they all are beautiful educated, empowered, well-spoken women. Some of them have their PhD or are pursuing it after having achieved two Master's, some are parents, some are involved politically somehow, and almost all of them are working.
Of course there are differences between the Muslim faith and other faiths, of course there will be changes that I make, but I don't see them as sacrifices or in any way as oppression. I don't wear hijab because I am forced, I wear it because I decided to as a sign of worship to Allah, as a way to be modest... I don't consider getting up in the early morning to pray a burden (although some days I wish it was easier), I don't see the structure of the family unit in Islam as oppressive or degrading for women, (and if Christians read through 1 Corinthians and Ephesians they would see that the role of women in the family and church is no different).
I know this is the start of a LONG journey, and Alhumdullilah I am enjoying every minute. It is my prayer that Allah would make it easier for others to see the beauty of Islam. That something would stir inside them to make them question what Islam is about. That they would read with an open mind not looking for the negative but seeking the positive. Because for me, it is okay if people don't support my decision after both sides have been searched out, but what deeply saddens me is that I would be "Misunderstood by Misconceptions."