I went to a high school that was majority white and majority Christian. Other than me, there was only one other Muslim student in my grade and to this day we are still friends. I remember during my sophomore year I was enrolled in a class called “History of Religion” in which we learned about a number of the world’s religions. In the first unit we learned about Buddhism and Sikhism, the second unit covered Judaism, the third Islam, and the final unit Christianity. When we got to Islam there were a number of problems. The first was the fact that this unit was literally 2 weeks long. All the other units were at least a month if not longer, and yet Islam which is the fastest growing and one of the largest (if not the largest) religions in the world was covered in only 2 weeks. The second problem I had was that the class was very inaccurate and didn’t correctly portray what the religion was truly about.
I remember feeling very uncomfortable during this part of the class due to it completely alienating me and what I believed in. The teacher and the whole department didn’t take the time to fact-check anything they said; this made me feel responsible to ensure that my religion is truthfully shown to the class. Throughout the course I raised my hand and corrected the teacher whenever she was wrong. The fact that I had to teach the class my religion as opposed to a teacher who was supposed to be an expert on this subject made me feel out of place. If I hadn’t been in that particular class, my peers would’ve soaked up false information about Islam as did the classes before and after mine. I felt as if no one cared about me, my fellow Muslims, or how our religion was portrayed.
I remember wondering at the time how something like this can be fixed; but I was too young to understand. However, as I grow older, I see how American society is beginning to be more progressive and understanding. I have begun to be more hopeful that one day my religion can be taught correctly. It is important that we support organizations that bring people from all religions together to have dialogue and find ways to support each other. I also know that if people from all religions can work together, we can help pass policy that will make religious education of all religions an important part of American education. This would lead schools to ensure that our teachers are truly qualified in this subject and teach every religion equally and with respect.
Nevertheless, in this moment, in comparison to any other religion in the world I can confidently claim that no religion is depicted as negatively as Islam. For example, in China, Uyghur muslims are being put into concentration camps for their religion. In France, Macron has declared war against Islam itself, forcing Masjids to close left and right, preventing Muslims from practicing, and more. For whatever reason, so many media outlets and politicians lie about Islam. To me it is very disrespectful and sad to see how much these evil people have hated my religion for no reason other than to hate.
I hope one day that people can truly see what Islam is about and understand it is a religion of peace and community. A religion that values family, peace, and love. A religion that stands for the oppressed and scrutinizes the oppressor. A religion that helps the poor and stops the greedy intentions of those who abuse their wealth. A religion that is here to protect both humans and animals. A religion that protects the planet on which we pray. A religion that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so.
Have you had to correct others’ misconceptions about your religion or worldview? How do you respond to the media or other sources of culture that depict yours dishonestly or unfavorably?