Islam students at LUC

Perception is Reality

Posted on: July 24, 2010

Both books on Muhammad, and even the articles we compared, struck me as having a natural defensiveness in tone, mostly in the introductions. It is very understandable considering they were written after the terrorist attacks in 2001, a turning point in American perception and tolerance of Islam. I found this most interesting because of how quickly many Americans, regardless of their lack of understanding of the religion or its people immediately developed perceptions of Islam and its people based largely on misconception as a direct result of a single event. Statistics reveal how hard it has been to be Muslim in America since 9/11, and it’s true.

According to Microtrends, by  Mark J. Penn, in the chapter on “Moderate Muslims” written in 2007:

•  “Almost half of Americans have a negative view of Islam. When asked to rate their views of all major religions, only Scientology ranks lower”

•  “Nearly half (46%) of Americans believe that Islam encourages violence more than other religions”

•  “More than half of Americans say Muslims are not respectful of women”.

•  “44% (of Americans) say that Muslims are too extreme in their religious beliefs.”

•  “22% (of Americans) say they wouldn’t want a Muslim living next door.”

This obviously negative perception of a religion and its people are quite interesting considering the actual demographic portrait of Muslims in America, and especially if any one of these Americans surveyed were to spend some actual time learning about the foundational principles of Islamic religion and how religiously tolerant, merciful, conservative, and morally focused the religion actually is. Here’s the reality behind the negative and ill-conceived perceptions of Muslims and Islam:

• “American’s think Muslims are violent? An overwhelming 81% of American Muslims support gun control”— compared to only 52% of Americans

•  “Muslims are religiously extreme? 25% of Muslims say they attend religious services on a weekly basis—virtually identical to the 26% of Americans who also say they do.”

•  “40% of Muslims say they are moderate—identical to the American proportion overall”

Despite the misconceptions of Muslims and Islam, the average Muslim in America is “young, family-oriented, well-educated, prosperous, and politically active.” This seems to be a stark contrast to the political and religious climates that have created the negative perception of this group and explain the defensiveness in the introductions to our readings. But, i think it is a very important point to consider. After all, the notion that ‘perception is reality” seems to hold true. And unfairly, at best. Everyone and every religion deserves to be evaluated within an educated and informed criteria that seeks to understand the truth and not just jump to conclusions based on the actions of a few misrepresentations. After being in an Intro to Islam class for just a few weeks I have learned so much that I hadn’t known about the religion that has painted a dramatically different picture than the media and general American perception has in the past decade.

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