The public’s misperception of Islam

Zain Akbar, guest columnist

Islam (pronounced with a soft “s”), is not a religion of terror or violence.

Islam is not a religion of hatred. In fact, “Islam” itself means “peace”.

Islam is often associated with terrorist groups that incite violence. However, they represent a small fraction of all Muslims and are recognized by the rest as people who go against the teachings of Islam.

Islam emphasizes freedom, equality and tranquility. Yet, the religion of nearly two billion people, myself included, is addressed as a system of extremism and a cause of violence and horror; this stigma haunts the everyday lives of ordinary people.

A large portion of Islam’s perception resides in a lack of education regarding the religion, especially when it comes to the basics. Islam is the name of the religion and Muslims are those who follow it. Our holy scripture is the Qur’an (sometimes written as the Koran or Quran), transcribed in Arabic,  and we believe in the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

God is addressed as “Allah,” which, quite simply, is a translation of the word “God” in Arabic. The term “Allahu Akbar” solely means “God is Great,” a phrase commonly used in all three of the Abrahamic religions.

That does not mean we do not believe in the prophets of other religions. We believe in Moses’s (Musa’s) parting of the Red Sea, Noah’s ark and Solomon’s (Suleiman’s) wealth and gifts. However, there are some discrepancies, just as there are discrepancies between Christianity and Judaism.

One of the more infamous symbols of Islam is the headscarf, or the Hijab. It has been used as an outlet of hate by those who do not wear it and is seen as a symbol of oppression, which Muslim women have to combat frequently.

For starters, Islam teaches that the Hijab should not be forced upon a woman and it is her personal choice of whether or not to wear it. Women choose to dress modestly if they want to prevent sexualization or oppression, which is the intent of the concept.

This has been praised when executed by celebrities, such as Billie Eilish, yet it is seen as extremism when performed by Muslims. Movies often portray the Hijab as a burden, something the wielder must be “freed from,” which opposes its reality.

Similar to Christianity and Judaism, Islam has sects, the main ones being Sunni and Shia denominations. Like every religion, every Muslim follows it to a different degree.

However, each Muslim is completely equal in the eyes of God. We are taught to be respectful of other beliefs and religions—even if some of them oppose those that we believe in.

In Western society, we are all too familiar with misrepresentation of Islam, but I believe in the Muslim Ummah to combat hate with compassion. It is, after all, what we were taught to do.

*If you have any questions or would like to learn more, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) meets Tuesdays after school. Contact Mr. Berkson for more information.