Field Study Research Karen Edmonds-Leach Professor Jonathan Pedrone REL212: World Religions-Summer September 4, 2011 Islam: Field Study Research After interviewing a member of the Islamic faith, I came to the realization that there are very many misconceptions about the religion of Islam and that these misconceptions are very hurtful, disrespectful, and inhumane. In this paper, I will first discuss several misconceptions that I had about the Islamic faith. I will then analyze how my prior understanding about the religion was altered through interviewing a member of the Islamic faith.
Next, I will discuss my beliefs on misconceptions about other people’s religion being common or not. Lastly, I will recommend steps that can be taken to minimize misconceptions people have about religions that are not their own. I had many misconceptions about Islam before speaking with a member of the religion. The first was that Islam oppresses women. When I thought about women in Islam, I thought of the image of a woman wearing a veil, and other heavy, dark clothing, where no skin would be visible, even in the hot summer months. I thought about how women were forced to stay home, and were not allowed to drive vehicles.
I also believed that the Muslim’s God, Allah, was not the same as the God in Christianity, and was a false god. I believed that Muslims worshipped Muhammad, and that Muhammad and Allah were the same thing. I did not think that Muslims believed in Jesus Christ. I also thought that Muslim men all married multiple wives. I thought that polygamy was something that was widely practiced in Islam, and was somewhat of a requirement. For those men who married one wife, I believed that they were merely “Americanized”. Another misconception I had was that all Muslims were Arabs.
Not only did I think they were all Arabs, but I thought that being a Muslim and an Arab was the same thing. Lastly, just as the cross is something like a symbol of Christianity, I believed that the crescent and the star was the symbol of Islam. I had all of these misconceptions about Islam, as many other people who practice religions outside of Islam do, but speaking with a Muslim quickly changed my mind about these harsh misconceptions. Each one of my misconceptions about Islam count toward my overall understanding of the religion. My prior understanding was completely altered through my encounter with the Muslim woman I interviewed.
I believed it would be a great idea to talk to a woman about how women are suppressed in Islam. I interviewed a friend of mine, named Kiran Masood. She was born and raised in the Islam religion, and continues to practice it today. She informed me that this is not necessarily the case. She stated that some Muslim countries do have laws that oppress women, but this practice does not come from Islam itself. Masood stated, “countries that have laws against women created these laws themselves. They may say that their basis is from the Qu’ran, but the Qu’ran does not suggest any oppression women” (Masood).
Though this is true, there are some social constructions in Islam, where women and men are given different roles and equity. This is something that all religions accept, and is not a surprise to me in Islam. In addition, another common misconception is that a woman can be forced to marry against her will, and this is not the case at all. Masood informed me that “no one can force a Muslim girl to marry someone she does not want to marry; her parents may suggest she marry a suitable man, but by no means is this girl forced to marry someone that she may not want to marry” (Masood).
I was also informed that divorce is not common, and it is used as a last resort. Masood also quickly refuted my second misconception, that Allah is a different God. “Allah is not a different God; Allah is simply the Arabic word for God” (Masood) which is something that I was not aware of. Allah is the same God worshipped by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. The one difference in Islam and Christianity is that Muslims believe the God is the one and only. The religion does not accept Jesus as God’s son, and believes that He has no human-like attributions.
In Christianity, Jesus is accepted as God’s son and was basically God in flesh when He was on earth. Also, Muslims do not worship Muhammad, as I was lead to believe. Muhammad was chosen to deliver messages, but is not the founder of Islam, and Muslims do not worship him, though they do honor him and respect him, as they do Jesus, Moses, Adam, and Noah (the other prophets of the Word). My third misconception, that all Muslim men marry multiple women, also came to be false. Masood informed me that polygamy, marrying multiple spouses, is not encouraged in Islam, and is not mandatory.
She stated, “In the religion of Islam, marrying multiple women is permissible, but is not something that the religion requires” (Masood). If a man decides to marry multiple women, these women cannot be forced into it, meaning if they do not want to marry a man with other wives, then she does not have to. My fourth misconception was that Muslims and Arabs are the same thing. Masood simply told me that the two are different, but I decided to do more research on the subject. There are about 1. 2 billion Muslims in the world. Muslims reside in a variety of places, including Nigeria, the Philippines, and of course, the United States.
Muslims also represent many races, cultures, and nationalities. About 18% of Muslims live in the Arab world, primarily in Indonesia (Isseroff). This is far from 100% of Muslims. Lastly, I believed that the crescent and star was the symbol of Islam, which is not the case. In the days of the Prophet Mohammed, Muslims did not have a symbol; instead, they used solid-colored flags. The Turks in fact introduced the crescent as a symbol. It was adopted due to the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Constantinople. In turn, all of my beliefs about Islam turned out to be false.
In fact, some of them turned out to be the complete opposite. I believe that misconceptions about other people’s religion are extremely common. No matter what religion someone practices, they always have certain beliefs about other people’s religions. This is not to say that people disrespect other people’s religions, but they simply have their own beliefs towards them. Most times, we do not know anything about other people’s religions. We are so set in our own mindset that the religion we practice is the only correct religion; that we fail to learn anything about other religions in the world.
Because we lack knowledge of other religions, we use stereotypes and misconceptions to justify why we do not agree with the other religions’ practices. Even those who do not practice any religion, I believe they use stereotypes and misconceptions about all religions, because those people are so fixed in their own belief that no religion is true, and that they all are false. It is important for people of all religions to have an understanding of others’ religions, because sometimes, people have a lot more in common than they think they do.
For example, I thought that my own religion, Christianity, was completely different from Islam, but in reality, the two religions share many similarities. I was surprised at the information I learned from Kiran Masood, and it was a shock that Islam has a lot of parallels to Christianity. Every religion has certain misconceptions. In this paper, I analyzed the misconceptions of Islam, but Christianity and other religions have misconceptions as well. We always are so quick to judge others that are different from us, but instead we should be interested in learning new things about other religions.
The purpose of this is not to persuade someone to convert to a different religion, but to just be enlightened and educated about the different religions that exist in our society. One step that could be taken to minimize misconceptions people have about religions not their own is for people to let their guards down and to be more accepting to people’s differences. Not everyone will have the same beliefs, but instead of stereotyping and discriminating against other religions, we can learn from each other. Just having knowledge of new things is prideful, and is an asset that we all should have.
If we take the time to learn about other people’s beliefs, these misconceptions would not exist. We should educate ourselves, instead of jumping to conclusions. One way I like to think about this is that I do not like when people of different religions criticize and stereotype against my own religion, Christianity. I wish that people would not be so quick to speak negatively about Christianity, because most times, they do not know what they are truly talking about. They jump to conclusions, and did not take the time to learn the truth behind Christianity.
Because I have such strong feelings about this, I should in turn not treat other religions this way, since I know how it feels. I should take the time to educate myself about different religions. Though it will not cause me to convert from Christianity, just having basic knowledge about other religions can help me make a better judgment on certain topics. No one can make judgments or participate in a debate if they have not done research on the subject. Interviewing my friend Kiran Masood gave me a lot of enlightenment. I learned so much about the religion of Islam that I did not previously know.
Though we have known each other for a while, I never thought to learn more about the religion she practices. I found it to be a rewarding experience, and learning about different religions is something that I will continue to practice. It is important for us to understand that we all have differences, whether it is race, culture, ethnic background, economic status, or religion. Amongst all these differences are many similarities between us. Instead of always focusing on the differences that separate us, we should look at the similarities that bring us together. Our differences make us special, and our similarities give us things in common.
Learning about people’s differences is important because it is what makes that person unique. Though we all have a variety of differences, one thing we have in common is we all are human beings with feelings and beliefs. We should all value our beliefs, and be open to learning about others’ beliefs as well. References Isseroff, A. (n. d. ). A Concise History of Islam and the Arabs. Middle East: MidEastWeb. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://www. mideastweb. org/islamhistory. htm. Fisher, M. P. , & Adler, J. A. (2011). Living Religions (8th ed. ). Upper Saddle River, N. J. : Pearson Prentice Hall.