Afraid of the Big Bad Muslim?

It’s no secret that many Muslims living in non-Muslim countries are often shrouded in a cloak of suspicion simply because of their Islamic beliefs and with no basis in reality.

Muslim men and women are easily identifiable in that we bear the hallmarks of faith, such as a long beard or a hijab. So it makes it easier for the enemies of Islam to lay aim at ordinary Muslims simply living out their lives.

There are several reasons why non-Muslims are afraid of Muslims. By understanding the reasons, Muslims from all walks of life can strive to prove each one wrong and present the true religion of Islam.

Misinformation and Ignorance

Most types of ignorance, whether it be about Muslims or even different races, often starts at home. It is the parents who typically carry with them certain prejudices that are passed down from one generation to the next.

It’s unfortunate that many children are taught to hate others who are different from them or hold different beliefs.

As a child growing up in the United States, I witnessed this in my own family. We were actively taught to avoid other races, such as African Americans and even Chinese immigrants, by a grandmother who was taught the same by her parents.

I can still recall, as a young child, being too afraid to even speak with a child who wasn’t “like” me. As I grew into an adult, I was able to identify and destroy the ignorance I experienced as a child. And Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. (60:8)

Through education, humans can best understand the differences that define us and embrace them as part of the human experience. Unfortunately, many people do not take the time to do that.

So it is easier for non-Muslims to fear something, such as Islam, that they’ve never taken the time to learn about. Muslims can counteract this effect by encouraging our children to reach out to kids from other faiths and cultural backgrounds.

Propagation in the Media

Switch on the TV or open a magazine and chances are you’ll encounter something derogatory about Islam. The media is the number one force that spreads falsehoods about Islam and Muslims in general.

Muslim women are all too often portrayed as mindless robots bundled up in sheaths of fabric who live only to serve the whims of men. And Muslim men are depicted as power hungry dictators ready to crack their whip the moment anyone gets out of line.

It’s ironic because the normality of life as a Muslim is nearly identical to that of the other world religions. Muslims share the same hopes, dreams and fears as non-Muslims do.

However, sensationalizing Islam and making it appear like this hidden society that is ruled with an iron fist and twisted ideals is what sells.

Many non-Muslims eagerly devour the fear factor that is presented to them on a silver platter. Truth be told, if the media presented a true image of Islam, no one would be interested because it is just as commonplace as the next person’s. That is why it is the duty of all Muslims to serve as a shining example of our faith. By doing so, we can negate many of the misconceptions abound in the media.

A Few Rotten Apples

The so-called Muslim extremists, misguided in their efforts to commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam, haven’t done the rest of us any favors.

The actions of a very small percentage of supposed Muslims, who commit their evil deeds in direct violation of even the most basic tenets of Islam, have tainted the rest of the Ummah.

It’s all too common for Muslim men and women living in the West to be labeled as “terrorists” as the guilt is attributed to association.

However, Islam abhors violence in all forms and promotes tolerance right across the board. As Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

…and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety. (5:8)

I experienced this myself while visiting my cousin in Connecticut a few summers ago. My husband and I were looking at condos for sale in the area, thinking it would be nice to live close by to my family members.

Within only a matter of hours, one of her colleagues mentioned to her that she better make sure that we don’t put up residence near her since we were probably only looking for a place to build bombs and plan a terrorist attack. Her colleague had never met me, my husband or our four children. However, just the fact that we are Muslim made us terrorists in her eyes.

Muslims around the world also suffer from the same label which makes many non-Muslims afraid to interact with us on a daily basis. The best way that Muslims can reverse the negative imagery is to engage in healthful dialogue within their communities, when the opportunity presents itself, and to denounce all acts of terror made in the name of Islam.

The Beauty of Islam

There’s a reason why there are billions upon billions of Muslims all over the world. The beauty of Islam is like a beacon of hope that shines brightly for anyone seeking the truth and the Oneness of Allah Almighty.

There are countless stories of non-Muslims converting to Islam featured in books and online. And there is a thread that runs true within them all, which is something lacking in their birth religion.

For me, I found the beauty of Islam nestled within a dusty and neglected English translation of the Holy Quran located in the fiction section of my college’s library. One of the first things I read was:

And we have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents; in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) goal. (31:14)

For others, the beauty of Islam can be found in the code of conduct all Muslims strive to live by, in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah, or whatever aspect of the faith that may touch their soul. Rest assured, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of in the Islamic faith.

In fact, most Muslims will happily tell you how the religion of Islam brings a sense of calm and tranquility in a world that is full of vice and a lack of a moral code.

As a Muslim, to be beyond the pale of Islam is something that would personally scare me the most.

(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)

About Sumayyah Meehan
Sumayyah Meehan reverted to Islam over 23 years ago. She is a Waynesburg University graduate with a BA in Criminal Justice. Sumayyah is a journalist, marketer and freelance graphic designer. She is also a single-mother residing in North Carolina with her children.