Western Authority Might Always Keep Us Ignorant of Islam

While I was browsing the web for interesting perspectives a few days ago, I came across yet another article that portrayed Islam very negatively, as usual posted on a pro-atheism website. That, combined with many other examples of people in the West having a terribly negative image of the religion, made me decide that in this week’s post I would try and rationalise things a little. I have heavily criticised this kind of ignorant atheism before, but I simply cannot help feeling like more needs to be said. After all, Islam is still the most hated religion there is, and I’m not sure if that’s justified.

First of all, if you have the time, have a quick look at the article, and also check out the comment section. Naturally, as usual, the writer makes some very big mistakes such as suggesting that Muslims think God has children, and in the comment section anyone defending Islam gets a whole load of rubbish thrown at them, while comments such as “Muhammad was a rapist” receive nothing but upvotes, despite the likely conclusion that none of that is true.

However, probably the worst thing of all is that these people pride themselves as being open-minded and rational, believing that they indeed have all the knowledge. In reality, their judgements are clouded by prejudice and based on extremely questionable sources such as these articles posted on pro-atheism websites. The question is, why do they believe all these “facts”?

In social-psychology, many experiments have been done to test human thinking, particularly a few decades ago when a lot more was allowed. An experiment that is especially interesting is one by Stanley Milgram, who tested the power of authority. All he did was pay a couple of participants to basically torture someone, hire an actor who pretended like he was indeed being tortured (only audible for the subjects), and a man in a white coat who told the participants that everything was fine. The conclusion? Research participants carried on giving electrical shocks until the actor supposedly died (at 450 volts) in over 60% of the cases, just because a man in a white coat told them everything was fine.

Surely, this oversimplifies things quite a lot (you can watch a video yourself, I promise it’s very interesting), but what matters is the result of the experiment: people will believe whatever they are told, no matter the consequences, just as long as the source is authoritative and confident enough. People were willing to kill millions of Jews just because a man with a moustache told them that Jews had to be exterminated, and in the same way, people are willing to believe a fancy-looking article regardless of the fact that it has enormous consequences for a large part of the world population.

In the end, experiments like this one suggest that such ignorance and evil is human nature and that we probably won’t ever get rid of it. As long as there is still someone out there preaching against Islam and as long as the popular media doesn’t explicitly show that Islam isn’t dangerous at all (which is not possible as long as fundamentalism still exists), the religion will always be unfairly looked down upon by a large group of the Western population.

But identifying a problem and concluding that nothing can be done isn’t very productive, so what we should ask ourselves is what we can do to minimise this effect, because although it cannot be solved, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything we can do. For instance, we can educate ourselves and use that knowledge we gain to educate others, so that slowly, one person at a time, we can convince a large part of the population that their prejudices are faulty.

Particularly, now that I have read the Qur’an, I suddenly notice misconceptions about Islam basically on a daily basis, whether it is on the internet, within my friend groups or even my professors in university. Most of these misconceptions are innocent, but that doesn’t take away the fact that if we can show that the innocent misconceptions are wrong, the more damaging ones won’t seem so infallible anymore. And that is what needs to be done: the world needs to be convinced that the “authority” that is the internet and the media is often wrong and that Islam isn’t as bad as some people want us to think it is.


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More on this topic from Dean Richards:

Things You Shouldn’t Think You Know About Islam

We Are All Ignorant: Social Media and the News

Why The Qur’an Could Be Deceiving


About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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19 Responses to Western Authority Might Always Keep Us Ignorant of Islam

  1. Mindwarp says:

    I commend your effort in rationalizing the whole islamophobia in pop culture. Even though there is a lot of ill-informed islamic hate speech out there, there are also as many, if not more, genuine grievances against islam. The problem with muslims, however, is that they are opposed to all sorts of criticism about Islam and that’s what causes the friction, which is often violent, between left and right. Islam may not be the worst religion out there, but it definitely has many points that leaves plenty of room to be misinterpreted and used in the wrong way and that needs to be pointed out so it can either be completely eradicated from the faith or be sonehow ammended to fit present day and age.

    • I agree completely (except for one detail), and you will find evidence of that in some of my previous posts. I have criticised Islam a couple of times since I read the Qur’an, because just like every other religion, it has flaws that have very negative consequences for Islam.

      The only part I disagree with are the words “the problem with Muslims”, but I think you yourself would agree that that is an unfair generalisation as well. After all, it’s a comment, and I think most people (including myself) often don’t bother re-reading their own comments.

      Aside from that, though, you are absolutely right, because for Islam the same thing goes as for atheism and every other religion.

      • Danish says:

        It indeed was a gross oversight, I didn’t mean the entire muslim population, but a good number of Muslims who fall under that definition. In anycase, UmmiSabrizahProduction’s comment is quite evident of what I was talking about. By the way, I was born and raised a muslim as well. Oh also, thanks for following my blog 🙂

        • Hmm, I’m not sure I agree entirely, but I guess I see what you mean. Discussions about Islam have taken a wrong turn and, as can be expected, because many people opposing the religion have become irrational, people who defend the religion might have become more irrational as well. It’s a shame, really, and every conversation about Islam I have with a Muslim seems to start with the idea that I don’t know anything about the religion and that I can always ask questions.

          Still, I don’t think Muslims can be blamed for that, and it’s good that discussion about it in a semi-rational way at least exists at all.

          Also, if I can ask, were you born in an Islamic family in an Islamic country, or were you born in the West in a less strict Muslim family? Because the fact that you were born and raised as a Muslim sounds quite interesting. Unlike in Christianity, not as many Muslims choose to turn away from the religion.

          • Mindwarp says:

            Sorry I keep changing my screen name, my first comment and now this one was made via my mobile device whereas the other one was made via my pc. In anycase, this is the name I want to go ahead with :).
            So coming back to the topic and your question to be precise. Yes i was born in a practicing muslim family in a muslim country. If you look at my blogs, you’ll find out which country that is.
            It appears that you’re implying that opposers of islam/religion are the ones that got irrational first and then the religious got irrational only in retaliation. I believe it to be the other way around, as I have first hand experience of this phenomenon. Also, a semi-rational debate, for lack of a better term, exists not because of the religious tolerance, but because admant critique by the non-religious which has, sonewhat, forced the religious to respond in whatever capacity they deem fit.

            • Hmmm, I’m not sure who became irrational first. After all, religion does often lead to ignorance, not necessarily because of the belief in God, but for other reasons, particularly certain parts of the religion (think gay rights).

              Still, I think the issue goes both ways and therefore the solution should also be sought in both ways. I don’t hold back my criticism of Islam, but in the same way I also won’t hesitate to try and convince people of the positive sides.

          • I am sorry Dean (if I may call u that if you don’t mind 🙂 ), when I told you if you have any questions to ask seems to implied that you dont know anything about Islam. I didnt mean that. I thought that we may have interesting discussion about the disagreement that u might have about my religion, cause I know u already read the Qur’an which is amazing. 😀

            And sorry if all my comment here is like me aggressively defending Islam.. That really is not my intention.. Islam taught me to have a rational discussion with others and maybe I failed to show that through my comments. Again, my fault entirely.

            But InsyaAllah,about the hitting issues, InsyaAllah I am not trying to sugar-coat anything, it is just what I learnt and thats what I share with you 🙂 .

            “And I know the usual excuse is that “translations cannot be trusted”, but nobody has ever come up with a different translation.”

            The translations does say that Dean about the hitting. Im not denying that, but what I meant earlier is that it is much more deeper than what you read on the surface. Which is why interpreting and translating is two different things, where the expert Islamic scholars have the capability to interpret what the Qur’an really says. But maybe my explanation is not the best way one should explained to others. Sorry again Dean.. and keep up the good work with ur articles.. 🙂

        • Hi there.. You are a Muslim too? Assalamualaikum to you.. 🙂
          I’m really sorry if I made a bad impression towards Islam. I ask for Allah’s forgiveness for that. I really did not intend to do that. Again, I am still learning and maybe the way I explained is not the best way one should. My intention was just to share. Sorry again from a Muslim to another Muslim.. 🙂

  2. Hi there, very interesting article. Its me.. Ummi Sabrizah Production from tumblr.. 🙂 I am a born Muslim and def. proud to be a Muslim. 😀 Thank you for not saying bad things about Islam. Truly, if people actually learn about Islam, they will know that there is nothing violence about my religion but it actually promotes peace. If there is any bad reputation about Islam, blame us Muslims. Islam is perfect the way Allah created it but us Muslims are far than perfect. It is our fault that Islam is not portrayed the way Allah created it. Not practicing Islam the way it should be or we may have misunderstood something, resulting in failure to show the perfectness of Islam. Even I am still learning to be a better Muslim and will continue learning..cause life is a learning process.. ;).

    Islam is about believing that there is only one God that is Allah and Prophet Muhammad is His Messenger, teaching us kindness and respecting other people (even for people of different religions) like one example as our Prophet Muhammad S.A.W had reminded us in one occasion;
    “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawud)

    I cannot say enough to share with you how beautiful Islam is once you understand about it. One need to find out the truth him/herself and not rely completely on the media etc. The current issues saying that woman in Islam is being oppressed. I am a Muslim woman, wearing a hijab. At first when you don’t understand the purpose of it, u might feel burden, but once you know and you feel it yourself. You just know that everything that Allah asks us to do have a wonderful reason behind it. I feel protected. I feel more pride. Cause I know I am only for my husband and not for other random guys to see. If only people know how Islam values a woman like a valuable rare diamond. 🙂 Even the first person to accept Islam in history (becoming the first Muslim), Allah chooses to be a woman, Siti Khadijah, the prophet’s wife. Showing such high standard of woman in Islam. Proud. :’)

    I am sorry for the long rant.. ehehehe.. If u have any question about Islam, dont feel shy to talk to me about it at my tumblr. I am no scholars or anything. But InsyaAllah (God’s willing) I will try my best to answer it if I can..mybe I could ask my other friends help too.. I would love to have a very respectful discussion with others.. Thank you.. Allah knows best.. :DDD

    • Thank you for your comment! Respectful discussion about Islam have been going very well on this blog so far, so I am definitely hoping to continue that 😉

      The position of women is something I find quite interesting, though, and I think there is more to be said. See, you’re right that women are very much respected in Islam and that in the eyes of God, they are definitely no less important or valued, while for example in Christianity God truly places women below men from the very beginning.

      However, that doesn’t mean that women are equal to men in the way people in the west want it to be, and for that reason, women are actually “oppressed” in Islam. For example, there are many things women are not supposed to do while men do have more freedom. In Islamic societies it is also much more common for the woman to stay at home, and for her to get a job while her husband stays home is still nearly impossible.

      From a Western perspective, that is oppression and sexism, and although many people bring up the faulty argument of “hijab’s are degrading” because they don’t actually know much about Islam, it doesn’t take away the fact that there truly are differences between what men and women can do within Islam, more than the genetic differences they are born with.

      • Helloooooo.. 🙂 Oh the woman vs man discussion.. 😀 Okay, this is my opinion and from my learning.. I pray to God that I dont say anything wrong, cause Im only learning myself.. 🙂 I begin with an ayat from the Qur’an; “And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness… ” (2: 228).

        Alright lets start InsyaAllah. It is actually more about perspective. While many today thinks that by drinking and partying is their source of happiness, but to us Muslims (who practice Islam), that is only a short-term of happiness that will not give us inner-peace in the end. It even can result in harm, which is why God forbid us from doing it in the first place. By everyday praying 5-times-a-day, reading the Qur’an and by remembering Allah, etc. that we feel easy at heart. It is just how you want to see things.. 😀 I mean thinking about death in many people might cause them depression, but in Islam we believe in the afterlife. Not saying that we wont be sad if any our family members died, we will be devastated. But because we believed that our life truly starts after we died in our short-journey of this world, we know that they are now in a better place, with Allah S.W.T. As Allah said in the Qur’an;
        “Innalilahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon” To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.” (Quran Surat Al Baqarah 2:156)

        So.. about this issue. It is just facts that there is a distinct difference between women and men, either characteristic or the obvious physical differences. Women are usually more emotional but have the inner-‘mom’-strengh compared to man where men are usually more stronger physically but are not easy to show emotions. God is the one who created us, so He knows our strength. In Islam, the husband has great responsibility to his family. He is the leader (imam) of the family where he should be the one providing for his family, making sure that his wife and kids has good home, good food, education, clothes etc. Cause in the afterlife, he will be the one asked if he has mistreat any of his family members under his responsibility. The duty of the husband, cause man is there to protect his wife, and kids. Making sure that they are in the best condition. That is why a good Muslim men will always be the one working instead of just staying at home, cause he understands his responsibility towards Allah of taking care of his family the best he can.. 🙂

        Of course, since forever that woman is always the one responsible to take care of the husband, kids, and chores at home. But do you know in Islam, actually that the husband must provide help (like a maid) to his wife, if the wife is not capable of doing it alone. Even it is our Prophet’s teachings that the man should help his wife at home to lessen her burden. But when you really understands Islam, most Muslim women knows the great great reward that Allah promises in the afterlife for a wife who treats her husband the best she could. And because of our faith and belief that we dont consider it as an oppression but a responsibility that a wife and a mother should have. Again back to the perspective of the way we see things. 🙂

        Saying that, Islam not once said that a Muslim woman are forbidden to work. Many Muslims women today are working and are successful in their jobs, and they are good-practicing Muslims even. But the women must understands her limit, and not broken the trust that the husband has given her. I’ve seen many woman family members who is working day and night, where day at work and night at home doing chores. Mother. That is the wonders of woman, where Allah has given them strength to have this capability. If the women can manage their time properly between career and not neglecting her family which is her main priority, than there is no problem in it. Issues arise when the husband doesnt let his wife to go to work, but this is where they need to discussed nicely to give a satisfying result for both of them. Communication is the key. Again, it is not Islam’s fault, but this involves the human’s action. If only both know their own responsibility, then there will be no problem. We should never judge the religion, because of the possible fault of us Muslims, not really understanding what Islam taught us. 😦
        As the Qur’an has said:
        “O Mankind, keep your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate (of same kind) and from them both has spread a multitude of men and women” [Qur’an, 4:1)

        Btw, do u know that in Islam, when a woman works, her money is for her to keep and for no one else, but when a man works, the money belongs to him and her wife.. Nice right.. ehehehehe.. ;))) Again, back to the responsibility of the husband to provide. But, as Islam teaches us, to always help each other and it is great reward esp. for the wife to help her husband. We are family after all.. wanting the best for each other.. 😀

        Women. Men. Everyone has their own responsibility and speciality, which not only about competing with one sex against another. We need each other. Allah knows that. That is why Allah created a man and a woman. Man to protect his woman. Woman to take care of her man. As the Qur’an said;
        “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” (Quran 30:21)

        Man might have advantages over women, just like women may have advantages against man. Example, the right of giving birth is given to the woman which is a blessing to us Muslims women, cause we know how Islam really values and respect women called mothers,
        ”’It was narrated by Abu Hurayrah that a man came to the Prophet and asked him: ‘Who is most deserving of my close companionship?’ He replied: “Your mother; your mother; your mother; then your father; then the next closest to you in kinship; then the one next closest.”
        And it is famous among Muslims the saying of “Paradise is at the feet of mothers.”

        But not saying that father is less respected, it is just showing that how Allah knows how hard a mother works to help keeping her family in place. Man and woman both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility; leadership which I had explained earlier. But this is consistent with the nature of man.
        As I stated earlier, which the Qur’an said: “And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness… ” (2: 228)

        “Men are in charge of women because Allah hath made the one of them excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).” (4: 34)

        Honestly, if only people knew.. woman in Islam is respected and protected. We are not oppressed but we choose to do it because we understands what Allah has told us to do. We know that is our responsibility. That is a huge different in my humble opinion. Although it is not an easy job, but we feel honoured that we are given the chance to serve our husband and kids the best we can, for the sake of Allah.

        If there is any injustice towards women of Islam, blame us Muslims and not Islam cause even the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W once said;
        “Whosoever has a daughter and he does not bury her alive, does not insult her, and does not favour his son over her, God will enter him into Paradise. “(Ibn Hanbal, No. 1957).

        Ehehehe.. thats my sharing.. I ask for Allah’s forgiveness for any wrong comment that I make. I may make mistake but InsyaAllah Im just sharing what I learnt. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to discuss with youuuu.. :DDD

        • I’m sorry about this, but I won’t be giving a very lengthy answer. You see, the thing is, I know that you don’t think that you are oppressed, but what I said is that from the Western perspective, you are. After all, most of the reasons you gave to me to show that men and women are equal involved God and rewards in paradise, but to people who don’t believe in a God, that isn’t a proper reason.

          “It is just facts that there is a distinct difference between women and men, either characteristic or the obvious physical differences.”

          I agree wholeheartedly with that comment, but in Islam, or actually in every religion, those differences go further. I do know that women are allowed to work, but in practice it rarely happens because they really are expected to take care of the children. Additionally, and I know this is not a topic everyone adheres to, but… the Qur’an did say that men are allowed to hit their wives if they aren’t obedient. That is something that the average feminist will find very awful.

          Ultimately, I understand why you think women are not oppressed in Islam, but that doesn’t take away the fact that from a Western non-religious point of view, women’s rights are very, very poor in Islam.

          • Hey its fine. Sorry for my long post.. ehehehe.. That is why for people to really understands Islam, they first must believe in the existence of one God. That is one of the vital foundation in Islam but that is another subject. That is why I can understands the misconception of people on Islam esp for people that doesn’t believe in God. It is harder to explain, especially in writing.. 🙂

            But really, most of the Muslims women that I know, practicing Islam is working. The only ones maybe not working is because they chooses to because they prefer to be at home. Maybe you are referring to a different places maybe. 🙂

            Oh about hitting the wives, I think I know what are you talking about. But trust me, it is not like that. In Islam, when a wives is disobedient to her husband, there are steps of guidance given in the Qur’an. Something like firstly not talking to the wives,if remain disobedient then sleep in different rooms, and finally I think this is where you get that point about hitting. But the man is not allowed to hit the woman brutally, severly or to her face etc. Even then Islam doesnt allows man to hit their wives as easy as they want and should be avoided def. if it is unnecessary. The point is not about hurting the wives. This goes much deeper than that. Sometimes the Qur’an needs to be translated by a professional scholars for you to really understands about some issues. Trust me. Even Muslims needs to go to classes to really understands what Allah is trying to tell us. But to tell you in details is out of my league, cause even I dont have the ability to directly interpret it correctly, that is why most people get misconception about what the Qur’an says if you just read the english translation per say. Try youtube-ing Nouman Ali Khan, hes very good at interpreting the Qur’an. Plus hes funny which is a bonus. Ehehehe.. ;D

            We have to agree to disagree on the womens right in Islam. Its definitely okay. But for people that experience it, I just want to share to people on how high status of women are in Islam. It sadden me hearing people talking about Muslim women being oppressed when I feel otherwise. But is fine. Just sharing. Thanks againnn.. Its def. nice talking to youuu.. 😀

            • MindWarp says:

              “Oh about hitting the wives, I think I know what are you talking about. But trust me, it is not like that. In Islam, when a wives is disobedient to her husband, there are steps of guidance given in the Qur’an. Something like firstly not talking to the wives,if remain disobedient then sleep in different rooms, and finally I think this is where you get that point about hitting. ”

              I beg to differ, it is just sugar coating the ugly fact that quran has given man to beat his wife. It is immensely reprehensible for a man to hit a woman, as if a woman is man’s property. No amount of “disobedience” gives a man the right to hit any woman. Furthermore, to make matters worse, women are not extended this privilege of being able to hit their husbands in case they go astray…

            • It is not a misconception, though. The truth is that if there is no God, then women are not equal to men in Islamic societies. If there is a God it is debatable, but that doesn’t mean that people in the West “misunderstand” this part about Islam.

              Additionally, you say “trust me, it is not like that”, but the thing is… the only source I am using for this is the Qur’an, and the only source you can use is also that same Qur’an. Sure, it’s different in practice, but the Qur’an still very clearly says that men are supposed to hit their wives if they are disobedient. And I know the usual excuse is that “translations cannot be trusted”, but nobody has ever come up with a different translation. The Qur’an allows men to hit their wives, which is a fact that cannot be disputed.

              Now, as MindWarp mentions, these passages are often sugar-coated, which is of course a great thing because it means that people feel like such passages should not be taken seriously, but the passage is still there for people to use when they like it.

              Again, the same goes for Christianity which has the exact same problems. The Bible even allows slavery and it also condemns homosexuality, so it is no better and the same sugarcoating happens there, but that doesn’t mean that the facts should be denied.

  3. Oh yeah Dean. If you dont mind me asking. Just one question cause I’m curious, which religion from all the religions that you studied that you think is the best one. And why? Cause I think you have studied a lot of religion, and it is interesting to know your thoughts. If you don’t mind sharing of course. Thanks.. 🙂

    • MindWarp says:

      I know this question is directed towards Dean, but I just wanted to butt in for a second. To me all religions are the same, all have some good points and some horrendous points. Almost all good points in every religion is not unique to that particular religion, whereas, all the bad parts usually are quite unique to that particular religion. Just my $0.02

    • I think I will have to agree with what MindWarp said. All religions have some beautiful parts to them, but at the same time there are also some awful points, many of which they share. Personally, out of the monotheistic religions I think Islam attracts me the most, but it has the same issues as all those other religions do.

      So, if I really had to pick the religion I liked the most, it would probably end up being Buddhism. It doesn’t have a text like the Qur’an or the Bible and it has generally proven to be very peaceful in practice, simply because there is no reason for extremists to act wrongly.

  4. bing.Com says:

    Good way of describing, and nice paragraph to get facts concerning my presentation subject,
    which i am going to convey in college.

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