In the name of Allah (swt), the Most Merciful, the Most Kind
The answer is yes!
Often if not mostly the case that people have that cause them to have misrepresented views of Islam is that they cannot discern between cause and effect. What I mean by this is that when one looks at for example Saudi Arabia and how it perhaps treats its women, immediately the assumption is made that Islam is at fault. Now, if you ask the same question to a Muslim, they would say the cause of this effect is indeed a lack of correct implementation of the law. And this seems to be where one of the biggest issues actually lies when it comes to the representation of the religion. When I as a Muslim look at countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan etc., I see a clash between culture and religion and the religion that is implemented is a dangerously literal interpretation of it and here lies a portion of the issue.
I want to speak a little about the misrepresentation of Islam, throughout time the Media has always picked on a certain group, thirty years ago it was the communists, eighty-years ago it was the Jews, before that was the Blacks and before that was the Irish; I am mostly talking here about situations that occurred in the UK. Now, it just seems that Islam has fallen victim to the pries of the media, and I use such negative language against the media and in particular main stream media as this is who has caused such misrepresentation. In a study by the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies in 2008, which looked at the representation of British Muslims in the National Print News Media between 2000 and 2008 found that:
- 38% of stories about British Muslims overall are about Terrorism
- Four out of five most common discourses used about Islam is the British Press associate Islam/Muslims with threats, problems or in opposition to dominant British values.
- Only 2% of stories showed British Muslims supporting dominant British values.
- The most common nouns used in relation to British Muslims were terrorists, extremists, Islamist, suicide bomber and militant, with very few positive nouns.
- The most common adjectives used were radical, fanatical, fundamentalists, extremists and militant.
Such negativity, and we wonder why people have such deformed views of our faith. In a study by the University of Birmingham, Muslims and the Media: Headline research findings 2001 and 2012 found that:
- 64% of the British Public claim that what they do know about Islam is ‘acquired through the media.’
- 91% of the coverage was deemed negative.
These are startling facts, when a little over half of the British Public attains their knowledge of Islam through the media; and that which is being showed is mostly negative, then what we find is a large portion of people are being fed incorrect information regarding a faith that has no connections with any of the above nouns and adjectives that are used to describe it.
It is not the fact that it is only non-Muslims that fall prey to this media dishonesty, it can be detrimental to those Muslims who have not acquired enough knowledge of their own faith and thus when they are constantly fed the idea that the Mass Media is correct all the time; then they begin to believe these lies. And it is unfortunate that we as Muslims have a larger enemy to face and that is indeed the Media, who at the click of a button can send a story which would become viral in a matter of seconds and can totally tarnish Islam for something it is not.
Time and time again the appellation of ‘Muslim’ is applied to someone who claims they believe in the doctrine of Islam and yet commits such atrocious crimes that are forbidden within Islam. If a man blows himself up and claims it is in the name of Islam, then the very instance that he begins to act upon this idea of violence he has already infringed upon countless laws within Islam and is hanging on a very loose thread. The moment he detonates his device is the moment his faith has left him completely and he is no longer allowed to claim that he is or was a Muslim. His actions can never be in the name of Islam even if he claims that they are. Which comes down to the statement: ‘The religion is perfect, the Muslim is not’.
Moreover, before I come to a conclusion here, I want to touch upon something I briefly mentioned in my first paragraph, I made reference to culture, and yes within the framework of Islam a culture can emerge, however, the rules cannot be changed and the culture is determined upon the rules of the religion. So, that Islam and Islamic culture is essentially the same thing, there is no difference. What appears in an Islamic Culture must and will comply with the rules of Shariah. Now, when we look at places like Pakistan, Africa, Iran etc., different political agendas are involved which then use Islam as the force to gain popularity and to then either implement a fanatical form of Islam as is the case with Iran, or in the case of the likes of Pakistan where the old culture of India has seeped through and mixed its way into ideas that are purely Islamic and have changed them. Take the example of women working, Islam has no issue with the woman working, she has that freedom and no man has the right to dictate how she goes about it as long as it is lawful, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)’s first wife Khadija (May Allah (swt) have mercy on her) was a business woman to whom the Prophet was a worker for and he objected not to this. So, when we see in Pakistan the likes of men forcing their women to stay inside and revoking the right to work is not something Islamic but cultural and same applies to education which is obligatory upon every man and woman in Islam. It is culture that impedes on the advancement of religion and sets it back to the dark ages, and this is why people have an issue with our faith. They see the cause of patriarchal and unsuitable culture seeping through and then they say the effect of such a thing is Islam; thus going back to the idea that cause and effect is not understood as a result of logic not being taught in state schools.
Our faith has been hijacked by the minority of extremists such as Anjum Choudary who represents less than 0.1% of the Muslims, and isn’t even a voice of the majority. It is people like the aforementioned that Islam gets labelled against and thus generalised. Our faith is also being hijacked by cultural monkeys who deem it necessary to impose their cultural views over their religious views as it agrees more with their desires. And thirdly, the literalist, if one decontextualizes and picks a random verse from any religious text they will be able to find sanctioned any rule that can play to their desires; be it good or evil.
We need to both Muslims and those who are not, we need to sit back, take a deep breath and ask our self some deep questions. Is Islam really like how the media represents it? Is it in Islamic theology to impose violence? What actually is a Muslim? And perhaps what I am being told is wrong and I should go out and search for the truth?
Pick your question, or conjure your own and think. Perhaps I should study this religion before I attempt at making a judgement upon it?