Approximately there are 3.45 million Muslims in the United States, out of a global population of 1.8 billion Muslims. After Christianity, Islam is the world's second most popular religion. Although there are many Muslims globally, there are still many misconceptions about Muslims and Islam in many countries. Muslim stereotypes are everywhere from being broadcasted in the media or to the people around us, stereotypes are hard to avoid.
Furthermore, the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and the unfortunate association of terrorism with Muslims leads to prejudice and reinforces stereotypes. As a result, Islamophobia—fear, hatred, and discrimination against Muslims—has taken root in personal biases, rhetoric, education, politics, hate crimes, and other areas.
In this article, we will be discussing some of the most common stereotypes associated with Muslims. Together, we all should be aware and understand that these are just baseless myths and should break them down.
1. All Muslim People Are Arabs
Although Islam originated in the Middle East and its holiest sites are there, the region only has roughly 20% of the world's Muslims. According to the Pew Research Center, there were 1.8 billion Muslims globally in 2015, accounting for around 24% of the global population.
While many people believe that most Muslims originate from the Middle East, Indonesia (in Southeast Asia) now has the world's largest Muslim population. According to projections, by the year 2050, India (in South Asia) would have the world's largest Muslim population.
Regarding the Muslims in the United States, 75% of all Muslim adults in the US have lived here since before 2000. The Muslim American community is substantially younger and more ethnically varied than the general population, with 30% identifying as white, 23% as black, 21% Asian, 6% as Hispanic, and 19% identifying as other or mixed race.
2. All Muslim Women Are Oppressed
Muslim women are often thought to be oppressed, discriminated against, and held in a subordinate position in society. Because women of all races, religions, and nationalities confront inequity on many levels, the status or role of Muslim women in society cannot be detached from the role and status of women in general. Muslim women aren't the only ones who face this.
The Quran expressly states that men and women are equal in God's eyes, prohibits female infanticide, and directs Muslims to educate daughters and sons. It also asserts that women have the right to accept or reject a prospective husband and grants women the right to divorce in certain circumstances, among other things.
However, different countries and cultures interpret the gender roles mentioned in the Quran differently. Many modern women and men reject gender-based restrictions and reinterpret the Quran in this light. It's also important to recognize that, as with other religions, people in positions of power will occasionally use religion as a pretext to justify women's oppression.
Leadership is another indicator of women's positions in Muslim society. Turkey, Indonesia, Senegal, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Mauritius have all had Muslim women as their heads of state since 1988. Women have a higher percentage of national political office in many Muslim nations than in the United States, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
3. All Muslim Women Wear Hijabs
The headscarf is frequently used to depict tyranny. Both men and women are instructed to dress modestly in the Quran; however, how this is perceived and carried out varies wildly. Many people believe Muslim women are compelled to wear a hijab, niqab, or burqa.
This is not the situation in the majority of cases, especially in the United States. Many women choose on their own if to wear a hijab, niqab, or burqa for several reasons, including pride in being Muslim, a sense of group identity, or to communicate a sense of self-esteem.
4. Misrepresentation of Muslims in Media
Muslim representation is in Hollywood is highly uncommon, and when it does exist, it is fraught with problems. Muslims occasionally utilize humor to convey their criticism of movies and shows with stereotypical Muslim characters on social media. For many Muslims, having no representation is preferable to be depicted in a rigid, oversimplified image.
"No more representation, please," one Twitter user remarked recently, referring to the constant portrayal of Muslims in Western media.
Characters that wear hijabs are frequently shown to be at odds with their appearance. The act of removing the hijab is depicted as a symbol of liberation.
Research shows how the film industry stereotypes and portrays Muslim women as submissive. For example, in an episode of the famous American medical series Grey's Anatomy, a Muslim doctor tears her hijab off and uses it as a bandage on a patient, despite her being in a hospital with an abundance of medical bandages.
More than half of the Muslims depicted on screen were linked to violence and portrayed as "foreigners" who were either refugees or migrants, with the majority speaking with an accent and dressed in "strange" clothing.
Even though Muslims are one of the world's most racially and ethnically varied religious groups, the tv or film characters are predominantly Middle Eastern/North African. They're frequently depicted as menacing and submissive, especially to white people.
5. Muslims Fast Every Week
Another big misconception about Muslims worldwide is that Muslims fast every week on Fridays or maybe on alternate days, which is not valid. In Islam, it is up to us that apart from Ramadan (when we choose to fast), it's not mandatory to fast on Fridays.
It is our holy prophet's sunnah to fast on Tuesdays and Fridays; however, fasting is a religious practice in the sacred month of Ramadan by Muslims worldwide.
Another big concern for Muslim women is that while praying during fasting or even on regular days, wudu needs to be performed to pray, and it can't be done while wearing nail polish.
786 Cosmetics has launched halal cosmetic products, including halal nail polishes. If you are wearing these nail polishes, wudu can be easily performed without removing it before every prayer.
While many influential voices, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have spoken out against the Muslim stereotypes, several media outlets and people continue to promote fear-inducing, monolithic, and extreme interpretations of Islam.
As Muslim communities and their supporters continue to develop ways to combat negative stereotypes, "Islamophobia" may one day become a thing of the past rather than a live reality.
Author: Sara Kamran