The inhumane terror attacks in the Middle East and some countries in the West, have cast rigid racial stereotypes on Muslims around the world. Arguably, the media has failed to clarify the position of the silent Muslim majority who firmly believe that Islam is not to blame for the actions of a minority fundamentalists who kill indiscriminately in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
USA TODAY reports that Islam is a growing religion which is estimated to surpass Christianity in number of adherents by 2070. Such statistics do not imply that Islam will result in the fall of world governments and the rise of a global Caliphate. Conrad Hackett, lead demographer for Pew Research Center says this increase is mainly due to changing demographic trends around the world. Islam and Sharia law should thus not be seen as monsters that will destroy modern civilization. it is such global misunderstanding of Islam that has made people excessively afraid and blamed Islam for the rise of ISIS.
According to a 2015 survey conducted by Pew Research Center in countries with Muslim populations, the overwhelming majority had an unfavorable view of ISIS. This view generally spouts from the feeling that ISIS does not represent Islam in any way. Lebanon, for example, was (and still is) a victim of several attacks coordinated by ISIS in Beirut and other parts of this country. Therefore, the greater Lebanese populace hold a personal grudge against the extremist group which should not be linked to the peaceful Islamic religion.
The word ‘radicalization’ is also loosely used by the media today. Some media hubs have even gone as far as believing that one percent of Muslims in different countries, mainly Europe, are “at risk of radicalization” and are prone to violence. Angel Rabasa, co-author of the book Euro Jihad firmly believe that “Radicalization and violent extremism are two different [concepts],” which should not be construed to mean the other. The ISIS is a good example of violent extremism which should not be mistaken for radicalization. Failure to differentiate the two concepts has clearly justified a predisposition that Muslims, even in their small numbers, will become fundamentalists with a knack for aggression.
A lot of news reports have also resulted in the mutilation of the Arabic language. Such poor translation of the language creates a negative perception of Islam as a religion. One example is the Arabic word ‘Amir’; this word is always translated into ‘prince’. The word ‘prince’ suggests a succession in rule from father to son. The Arabic word ‘Amir’ comes from the Arabic root ‘Amr’ which translates into ‘order’. So ‘Amir’ basically means ‘he who gives orders’, and a known rule in the Arab world dictates that if three people are traveling, they should appoint an ‘Amir’.
It is also worthy to mention how the Qur’anic verses have been taken out of context. The holy Qur’an is a book of law, just like the Bible and Torah. Many still accuse Muslims of being barbaric for applying Qur’anic law but forget that a lot of these commands have become obsolete through the passage of time. The treatment of slaves was a norm 1400 years ago, but the same is not true in our modern era.
Stereotyping also adds to the growing misunderstanding of Islam. Terrorism is almost always linked to Islam. Many terrorist acts by non-Muslims are branded differently as either isolated attacks carried out by either a “deranged lone wolf” or a “radicalized citizen.” Moreover, Islamic countries are portrayed negatively as oases in deserts full of camel-riding, turban-wearing and sword-wielding jihadists.
The world will only come to terms with Islam when they better try to understand it as a peaceful religion. Muslims also have a responsibility to forward their belief and present it more powerfully through independent media sources. In the era of globalization, why are Muslims still alienated? Is it not time to actually try to comprehend Islam and realize its real message of peace?
Opinion by Mohamad Hannouf
Edited by Shepherd Mutsvara
Pewresearch.org: In Nations With Significant Muslim Populations Much Disdain for ISIS
The Christian Science Monitor: How Many Muslim Extremists Are There? Just the Facts, Please.
About news: 5 Common Arab Stereotypes in Television and Film
USA TODAY: Islam Projected to be World’s Largest Religion by 2070
Image Courtesy of Omar Chatriwala’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License