Three Myths about Islam

MYTH #1: Muslims cannot be good Americans because they are required to be loyal to some abstract Muslim flag or creed somewhere in the world, which is mutually exclusive with America. False. One of the reasons Islam is such a widespread religion in more than 100 countries is precisely because, as Muslim scholars like to say, “The waters of Islam are so pure that they carry the color of the rocks that they flow over.” Islam adapts and integrates exceptionally well. Where would Islam be today without Turkish poetry, without Persian cuisine, without Indian architecture? Islam in India is Indian. Islam in Indonesia is Indonesian. Islam in China is Chinese. Islam in America is becoming American. That is what Islam is meant to be. It is meant to be a flexible and adaptable religion, otherwise it would have died.

MYTH #2: Islam is inherently oppressive to women. That’s just not true. The person who first recognized that the Prophet Muhammad had received revelation, that something very special had happened to him—even when he was scared about that first encounter with the angel—was his wife. Khadijah was a successful businesswoman who was a well-respected figure in her time and place. For me, that’s one model of a Muslim woman, which is powerful, independent, and equal.

MYTH #3: Islam is inherently violent and, ergo, inevitably at odds with the West or America. Again, just not true. Muhammad Ali is a great Muslim and a great American. We Muslims seek to contribute wherever we are. Three of the last six Nobel Peace Prize winners were Muslims: Muhammad Yunus, Mohamed ElBaradei, and Shirin Ebadi.

—Eboo Patel

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