Eight years ago, I was on a
transit at Heathrow Airport when I entered a bookshop and saw a rack of
Middle Eastern novels written by Western authors. The covers all
portrayed veiled women running away from an abusive husband, father or
brother. Women I'd never knew personally, not at home in America or in
my birth country of Iraq. Although I realize they exist everywhere.
I came home looking for stories that portrayed the healthier part of the
Arab world. They were hardly any out there. More recently, I found books
(six including my two) that do portray the type of Arabic women I'm more
familiar with, which range from beautiful and sensuous to hideous and
gaudy. Unfortunately, those few are not enough to change the general
perception people have of that religion, or region.
Why is it important that perceptions change? Because for humans to
survive, diversity and peace must have a home. Because at the rate that
Islam is growing many religious futurists estimate that by 2200 Islam
will become the most popular religion in the world. Because when
perceptions change non-Middle Eastern and non-Islamic people will be
able to distinguish between the small percentage of handicapped minds
that give themselves permission to kill in the name of God, and the rest
who peacefully and happily hold onto the teachings of the Quran, as my
family peacefully and happily still holds onto the Aramaic language.
The most interesting aspect of Islam is that, unlike other religions, it
is not named after its founder or the community and nation of its birth.
Islam is an attributive title that signifies submission to God, Creator
of the Universe. Whosoever possesses this attribute, may he or she
belong to any race, community, country or clan is a Muslim. This
includes the sun, moon, earth and stars since matter, energy and life
all obey God's laws and grow and change and live and die in accordance
with those laws.
Islam teaches that all humans are innocent by birth and become sinful
only when they consciously commit a sin. Sins are generally three types:
1.Those against God, by denying Him.
3.And against humanity.
What is the framework of the Muslim life? It's the five pillars, which
1.Having faith or belief in the Oneness of God
2.Praying five times a day directly to God since there's no hierarchical
authority in Islam.
3.Giving alms to the needy. Muhammad said: 'Charity is a necessity for
4.Purifying oneself through fasting. It's done mostly for health
purposes. But also, by cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, a
fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as
growth in one's spiritual life.
5.Making the pilgrimage to Mecca if physically and financially able to
There are also the articles of Islamic faith, in which Muhammad asked
people to believe in the following:
1.Faith in the Unity of God
2.Belief in God's angels
3.Faith in all the Books of God
4.Faith in all of God's Prophets, from Adam to Muhammad, including
Abraham, Moses and Jesus
5.Belief in Life after Death
Many people are surprised to find out that over 1400 years ago Islamic
Law guaranteed rights to women that women in Europe and America only
obtained in the 1900s. According to Islamic Law women have the right to:
1.own property, operate a business and receive equal pay for equal work
2.have total control of their wealth
3.marry whom they want
4.keep their own name when married
6.have their marriage dissolved in the case of neglect or mistreatment
One problem people have with Islam is polygamy, which is a pre-Islamic
practice. Islam actually put restrictions on the unrestricted polygamy
of the Arabs of the time, and put many laws in place to protect the
wellbeing of women, like ending the pagan Arab practice of killing their
baby daughters when they were born.
Another problem people have is with the term Jihad, which many equate to
holy war. But really, it's an internal, personal struggle towards the
attainment of a noble goal.
While the subject of Islam for me is inevitable, because I was born
amongst it just like my nieces and nephews were born amongst America,
one day it will be inevitable for everyone. Plus Judaism, Christianity
and Islam are so closely related, all descending from Abraham, that
there's no reason for their followers not to get more familiar with each
other, and ultimately maybe, maybe, maybe get along.
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