BY JANNAT SHEIKH
There are many people, including a few County College of Morris students, who are understandably unaware of true Islamic beliefs. Misrepresentation of Islam, the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, are spreading rather than being corrected.
Furthermore, Islam is the fastest growing religion according to Pew Research Center, a “nonpartisan fact tank.” There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims. The number of Muslims is predicted to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century if the current demographic trends of Muslims continue to increase.
“I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions about Islam,” said Rachel Miller, a psychology major at CCM. “People should be more open to understanding [Islam] the way they are open to understanding most other religions.”
Miller said that she respects Islam just as any other religion in the world. She believes that Muslims, the followers of Islam, should be respected like everyone else.
Of course, some common falsities of Islam continue to create confusion. A couple of the misconceptions are regarding Jesus and his importance in Islam and the impact of feminism in Islam.
In fact, Jesus is considered to be a prophet in Islam. Unlike Christianity, Jesus is not believed to be God’s son in Islam. Some people think that Muslims do not accept Jesus, however, Muslims believe him to be a messenger of God.
In addition, one of the ways these misconceptions can be erased, or at least decreased, is by spreading knowledge and the truth.
“Islam has such a negative connotation in the media these days, and it’s a shame,” said Christine Quigley, a liberal arts major at CCM. “I feel that it is such a peaceful religion.”
Quigley said that she learned about Islam in her middle school world history class. The knowledge she gained led her to view Islam as she said she views every other religion, with respect.
Dr. Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) helps explain the significance of moving from ethnocentrism (believing one’s own beliefs and values are superior) to ethnorelativism. One who is ethnorelative would be open to and respectful towards other religions and cultures. Becoming ethnorelative is the last “step” to Bennett’s DMIS.
“The first thing I think of when I hear the word Islam is Muslim women,” Quigley said. “A lot of people think that Muslim women are oppressed because of how the media portrays them, and I learned that Islam actually preaches feminism. I think people fail to recognize the strength and capacity of Muslim women.”
Approximately six-in-ten Muslim American women say they wear the headcover, or hijab, at least sometime according to Pew Research Center. Some people mistake the hijab for oppression while many view the hijab as a symbol of feminism.
All in all, the fact is that Islam is growing, and the number of Muslims are increasing. There are approximately 3.3 million Muslims of all ages in the U.S. as of 2015 according to a survey done by Pew Research Center.
“I think people need more knowledge about the religion of Islam,” said Muhammad Bilal Ahmad, a business administration major at CCM. “It is not a religion of hate and racism. It is the religion of peace.”
Ahmad said that some people have asked him strange questions in the past regarding his religion, Islam. He has gotten questions such as, “Are all Muslims terrorists?” Even though this question was asked in a joking manner, it was disrespectful toward Ahmad.
Nearly half of the Muslims in America fault their own Islamic leaders for the lack of condemning extremism, according to Pew Research Center. Approximately 48 percent of Muslim Americans say Muslims leaders have not done enough.
In any case, knowing the facts and spreading knowledge is key. As said by Martin Luther King Jr., “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”