Muslim Culture, Religion Misrepresented By Media
God does no forbid you to treat kindly and act equitably toward those who neither fought you in the matter of religion nor driven you out of your home. Indeed, God loves the just. (Quran 60:8)
Antagonism toward Islam has been a permanent fixture in Europe since the time of the Crusades. In the past, the enemy par excellence , the Arab heathen, was in a distant land. However, in this century, with a large immigrant and "converted" population, the West must confront this "enemy" in its own land. With more than SIX (6) million Muslims in America, xenophobia reveals itself often in an extremely virulent manner.
The media have been primary contributors to an erroneous image of Islam by stereotyping all Muslims as being fundamentalists or terrorists. For example, after the February 26, 1995 bombing of the World Trade Center, the media depicted American Muslims in general as the cause of disaster. With circumstantial evidence, the media accused, indicted, tried, and found the alleged fundamentalists, thus all American Muslims, guilty.
Decide yourself how much of a threat Muslims pose to you. The "fundamental" beliefs of a Muslim are the belief in only one God and the Prophethood of Mohammed, prayer, fasting, charity tax and pilgrimage. Thus, if a Muslim believes in these fundamentals, he or she is a fundamentalist.
However, most media reports use the term fundamentalist to imply extremism revealing a complete ignorance by the media since Islam explicitly prohibits extremism. Prophet Mohammed said, "Those persons who go to extremes (in practicing their religions) were cursed (by God)".
Another misconception about Islam involves jihad. Jihad, literally meaning struggle, can include anything a Muslim does for the sake of God. Everything from getting an education to simply eating or sleeping can be considered jihad. Therefore, the popular notion that means holy war is highly inaccurate.
The central dogma in Islam is the absolute oneness of god. In fact, a person becomes a Muslim after testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except God and that there is no deity worthy of worship except God and that Mohammed is the messenger of God. Deity can mean material possessions, prophets, presidents, etc. The second point in the declaration is the Prophethood of Mohammed , who was the last in the lineage of prophets starting with Adam and including such Prophets as Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. In fact, the Quran mentions Jesus more times than Mohammed.
Furthermore, a Muslim must perform five daily prayer - one each at sunrise, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and night. These prayers are significant in that throughout the day a Muslim is constantly aware of the Creator and the prescribed duties. The media regularly portray "fundamentalists" prostrating themselves in prayer. In the October 4 issue of Time, Muslims were shown performing prayers with guns with caption that read "guns and prayer go together in the fundamentalist battle." What was omitted was that these Muslims were praying on a battlefield in Afghanistan. Common sense dictates that with the very real possibility of an ambush, at any time, soldiers should remain armed at all times.
Fasting, the third pillar, is prescribed during the month of Ramadan. A Muslim cannot eat and drink during the daylight hours - from sunrise to sunset. It must be noted that a Muslim cannot interrupt daily routines while fasting. Through this action, a Muslim learns to persevere through hardships and gains a better understanding of others less fortunate. Therefore, even the Muslim leader understands the feelings of hunger and thirst experienced by the poor.
The charity tax is also compulsory to every financially capable Muslim. Every year, Muslims must pay 2.5 percent of their capital. The collected funds are then distributed to the less fortunate throughout society. How can a religion that promotes such well-being of people be responsible for killing of innocent lives? The Arabic word for this charity is zakat - which means both purification and growth. Therefore, in Islam, the giving of charity purifies one's income, while laying the foundation for future growth.
The annual pilgrimage to Mecca is the last pillar of Islam and is only obligatory for those who are physically and financially able. This pilgrimage is derived from Abraham tradition. Imagine millions of Muslims, regardless of age, sex, race or economic status, converging to one central point for the sole purpose of worshipping God. During this pilgrimage, every Muslim dresses the same, eliminating any material extravagance so commonly found throughout the world.
Now judge for yourself what type of threat Islam poses to you. There is no resemblance between "Media Islam" and "true Islam". Every religion has its zealots. But to stereotype a whole group based on the actions of a minuscule minority is to propagate the same type of message the Nazis delivered before the Holocaust. To blame Muslims as a whole for the scattered acts of violence throughout the world is to perpetuate the centuries old myth about Islam that it is a violent religion waiting to take over the West.
Learn about the various perspectives in the world, because misunderstanding only leads to hatred.
(Originally published in the University of Texas at Austin Students' newspaper, Daily Texan)
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