Islam is one of the most dominant religions in North America and the world at large. Furthermore, this religion is the fastest-growing denomination in the world even though it is subject to various controversies around the world (McDonnell, 2015). The American media has played a significant role in portraying Islam in a negative light, but events around the world have also contributed to this portrayal.
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The spread of Islam in the United States dates back to the late 1800s when migrants from the Ottoman and Mughal Empires immigrated into the country. Nevertheless, Islam in the United States is closely associated with immigrants because most of its followers are either immigrants or second-generation citizens. In America, there are various stereotypes that are associated with Islam, especially in matters concerning the connection between faith and Jihad (holy war).
One of the controversial notions about Islam is whether it is a religion of peace or war. However, even the Muslims themselves profess that there are variations of their religion, and the majority of followers are committed to peace. For instance, there is relative strife in most of the regions where religion is prevalent such as North Africa, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Nevertheless, a closer look at these regions indicates that conflict in these areas is more related to politics than religion.
This misconception is one of the reasons why Islam is often considered a religion of conflict. Most of its teachings lean towards the concept of peace and not all places where this religion is practiced are war zones. The Jihad element has also been used by criminals to make a connection between unnecessary violence and Islam. In reality, Jihad is a concept that has been carried from the ancient forms of Islam to serve the selfish interests of some individuals (Schuon, 2003). For example, the concepts of the Christian Crusade and Muslim Jihad are similar in nature.
Only slight differences exist between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. All religions have deep roots in the teachings of the Biblical Old Testament and they share similar beliefs in prophets and other practices. To an outside observer, when the religions talk about Allah, Jehovah, and HaShem, they are all referring to the same God. The only issue that exists amongst these religions is the campaigns of their adherents in the bid to prove the superiority of their faiths.
Another common misconception regarding Islam has to do with democracy, human rights, and pluralism. Consequently, most critics argue that Islam cannot accommodate democracy and other ideologies because they clash with Islamic teachings. The example of a country like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) indicates that Islamic states can accommodate pluralism, human rights, and basic democracy. Citizens from all around the world go to the UAE and other Islamic states for business and leisure.
These trends indicate that eventually democracy and other concepts, such as women’s rights will become part of the Islamic state. On the other hand, the governance issues that exist in most Islamic states also affect other developing nations that are not predominantly Islam. Therefore, it would be prudent to conclude that most Islamic countries are on the path to accommodate values such as democracy and pluralism. Islamic culture is the subject of various misconceptions around the world. However, this anomaly can be corrected through positive initiatives such as social education.
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McDonnell, E. (2015). Rebel music: Race, empire, and the new Muslim youth culture. By Hisham D. Aidi. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 83(1), 288-291.
Schuon, F. (2003). Understanding Islam. New York, NY: New Age Books.