Salma Hassaballa has produced two documentaries and written books in multiple genres. She is a member of the Egyptian Writers Union.
How Are Muslims and Islam Represented in the News Media?
Some Western news outlets have propagated the notion that the religion of Islam caused Muslim societies to be barbaric, harsh, dogmatic and brutal. They have also suggested that the religion drove some of these societies to perpetrate the most sinister crimes of the century. Some have claimed that their aim is to invade Europe and the USA in order to implement the Sharia (Islamic law) worldwide by force!
Have you ever questioned this type of information? Have you any doubts regarding the authenticity of these reports? If you really want to assess the quality of information you have received regarding Muslims and Islam, I encourage you to complete following quiz. Below the quiz you will find the correct answers, which I've taken directly from the Quran and/or from other authentic sources.
1. Is Allah in the Quran the God that is worshiped in the other Abrahamic religions?
Explanation: The answer comes right away from the Quran as God says: “And do not argue with the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him." (29:46)
2. Was the Islamic State (that was built during the time of the Prophet) a typical religious state?
Explanation: Islam does not support building a religious State similar to some contemporary harsh Islamic regimes. But it supports building a State of law as in Islam there is nothing called “religious state”. The State that was initiated by Prophet Mohammed and ruled by the Rightly Guided Caliph was a secular state, where competence and experience not the depth in religious sciences were the criteria to hire and employ people. This is manifested in many incidents in the biography of the Prophet and the history of Islam.
The prophet of Islam was the first leader to establish a society that is based on a fair constitution (the charter of Medina), the provisions of which was founded on the teaching of Islam, included but not limited to: freedom of expression provided with respect to others, freedom of religion, respect for women, prohibiting of racial discrimination, even protection of the environment was encouraged by Islam
Source: Dr. Salim El Awa, The political system in the Islamic State, Dar El Sherouk, page 10.
3. Does Islam breed extremism and hence breed terrorism?
Explanation: God says addressing people who believe: “Thus We made you a moderate nation…" (2:143). Believers should be moderate provided that they follow His commandments, which calls for justice, freedom, and equality. And as we all know, a creed that is based on complete justice, equality, tolerance, freedom, and respect will never breed extremism.
Islam is based on Justice:
Islam is based on implementing complete justice as shown in many verses of the Quran, God says “...No burdened soul carries the burdens of another...” (17:15), and says: “...do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice..." (5:8), and says: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin…” (4:135).
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Islam is based on Equality: Prophet Muhammad during his Last Sermon in Minâ, said: “O people! Your Lord is one Lord, and you all share the same father. There is no preference for Arabs over non-Arabs, nor for non-Arabs over Arabs. Neither is their preference for white people over black people, nor for black people over white people. Preference is only through righteousness.” Then he said: “Have I conveyed the message?” and the people declared that he had. (Source: Musnad Ahmad (22391))
Islam is based on Tolerance: In fact, the respect of our diversity goes beyond human rights to become one of God’s laws and one of His signs. God says in the Holy Quran: “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors. In this are signs for those who know.” (30,22).
And no one or certain religious adherents or groups, even Muslims, have a monopoly on God’s Mercy or claim that others are excluded from God’s bounty. God says in the Holy Quran:
“Say, "Each does according to his disposition. Your Lord knows best who is better guided in the way." (17:84).
And said: “...For each of you We have assigned a law and a method. Had God willed, He could have made you a single nation, but He tests you through what He has given you. So compete in righteousness. To God is your return, all of you; then He will inform you of what you had disputed.” (5:48).
In fact, we in God’s eyes are one family in humanity as He says: (O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul …) (4:1)
Islam is based on Respect: as God says: ““We have honored the Children of Adam, …., and greatly favored them over many of those We created” (17:70).
Out of honor, the soul is sacred and the Quran completely prohibited all kind of crimes by saying:
“.. whoever kills a person -unless it is for murder or corruption on earth -it is as if he killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves it, it is as if he saved the whole of mankind…” (5:32).
we see, the Quran not only considers the beheading of a single innocent person - no matter what his belief or affiliation is - as a traditional felony, but it perceives it as a horrendous crime. It doesn’t equate it to the murdering of one or hundreds or thousands or even nations, but it equates it to the murdering of all mankind!
Islam is based on Freedom: Freedom is a necessity for and an essence of respect, that is why it is greatly highlighted in every aspect to encompass freedom of creed. God says (There shall be no compulsion in religion; the right way has become distinct from the wrong way.. ) (2:256).
In fact, following the genuine path of Islam has never bred extremism, ignorance or terrorism. On the contrary, it totally transformed a group of disconnected and ignorant tribes into a refined nation and led them to establish a great civilization that lightened the whole world throughout the medieval era.
4. Does the Arabic word “jihad” mean waging a holy war?
Explanation: The term “jihad” has been misunderstood by many; its literal meaning is to exert effort. To purify one’s soul is known as the biggest Jihad a person can do in Islam as It requires to get rid of all reprehensible qualities of hatred, envy, flatter, selfishness, etc. Thus, it requires self-discipline, self-control, self-observation and self-assessment. Tariq ibn Shihab reported: A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, “What is the best jihad?” The Prophet said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler.” (Source: Musnad Aḥmad 18449).
Furthermore, in Islam there is nothing called a Holy war, Muslims did not invade lands and displaced people under the pretext of a Holy war or fulfilling God’s promise. However, the term that is known in Islam is “a justified/ legitimate” war which is a defensive war aiming to respond to aggression. The verses of the Quran are clear in this regard. God has permitted Muslims to fight their enemies who attacked them by saying: “Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought..” (22:39) aggression and transgression in retaliation, revenge or anger are not allowed in a justified war. God says: “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” (2:190). Moreover, these are the Prophet’s Muhammed rules in a justified war: “Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person.” (Sunan Abu Dawud), “Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Al-Muwatta) Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta) Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food.” (Al-Muwatta). “If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam.” (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim). “Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal) “Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens,...” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud). “Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience.” (Sahih Muslim) “No one may punish with fire...” (Sunan Abu Dawud). “Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and to not do wrong even if they commit evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi).
5. Was the religion of Islam spread by sword?
Explanation: God never asked his prophet to spread His words by a sword, on the contrary, He said: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you..” (3:159) this is how the Prophet conveyed God’s words. Also, God asked his prophet not to compel by saying: "...and you (Prophet) are not a dictator over them” (50:45), “And so (O Prophet) exhort them; your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel” (88:21-22). Moreover, the Prophet asked Muslims to peacefully spread God’s message by saying: “Convey from me even a single verse.” (Source: Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 3461). So it was never in the teachings of Islam to force people to believe. The accurate history is not only shown in the slow convergence of Christians to Muslims through the years and the Christians survival today in Muslim lands but also is reported in books and testimonies as it was revealed by the Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria in his speech recited before President Sadat of Egypt.
I also quote from the article entitled “Muhammad’s Sword” written by the peace activist and ex-member of Israeli parliament Uri Avnery “Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations." In fact, Jews themselves used to call their period under the Muslim reign in Andalusia the “golden age." Shlomo Sand, an Israeli emeritus professor of history at Tel Aviv University, says that Yitzhak Baer, in his important book on the Sephardic Jewry, noted admiringly that Arabic Spain had become “a refuge for Jews”. (Shlomo Sand, The invention of Jewish people, English edition, Verso, 2009, p. 210 ). He also mentioned that “Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi saw Islam, as a democratic religion that not only embraced all converts to Islam as brothers but genuinely revoked the political and civil restrictions and sought to erase social distinctions.” (Source: Shlomo Sand, The invention of Jewish people, English edition, Verso, 2009, p.186)
6. Are Muslims of today backward compared to their Western counterparts because of their religion?
Explanation: In fact, the cause of the backwardness of many Muslims nowadays is socio-economic factors due to deserting the essence of Islam. For example, many insist on holding on to superficiality and shallowness and are eager to follow the way the Prophet used to dress up, the way he let his beard, the food he used to eat in the seventh century instead of considering a pursuit of knowledge as a religious dictate on every Muslim man or a woman (as Prophet Mohamed said). Many others debate a lot about women issues (that are mixed with traditions) and they forget the basic Islamic rules of freedom and equality.
The famous Islamic scholar Dr. Hassan Hathout asserted that Muslims’ backwardness is due to the violation of the teachings of their religion. He added: “The Quran says: “Take hold all of you of the rope of God and do not disperse” (3:103), now if you look at Muslims in a country like Iraq for example, you will hear I am Kurdish but he is Arab. You can only see the Arabs saying, “I am Sunni but he is Shia”. While Islam calls for unity, and integration, Muslims are disunited, fractioned and fighting one another. Muslims are backward not because Islam is bad. Muslims are bad because they do not follow the teachings of Islam. Unfortunately, people judge Islam by what they see Muslims doing and what Muslims are doing runs contrary to Islam, just as what Christians are doing runs contrary to Christianity. Jesus said God is love. He said, “you have been told to love your relative and hate your enemy but I ask you to love your enemy and bless those who curse you and help those who trespass against you”. Jesus taught something, however, Christians are mostly doing otherwise. What would Jesus have to say about atomic bombs, about Colonialism, about the white man supremacy? The same applies to Jews. Rabbi Hillel, a famous Rabbi, once said that a young man went to him and asked: “can you explain the Torah to me while I stand on one foot?“. He said, “do onto others what you wish others would do unto you”. This is the Torah, the rest is commentary go and study it”. What do you find in the world today?"
We, people of the world, believe in the same God but call Him different names. He created such a beautiful world. This beauty is only sustained by our mutual and complete understanding and sincere search for the truth.
Injustice breeds terror. Stereotypes, racism, and prejudices breed injustice. Biased mainstream media breeds racism. Imperialism, colonialism, and dictatorship breed biased and oriented mainstream media.
We have to collaborate to end this vicious circle. We deserve to live in a better world, a world where everyone is dignified and respected, no matter who he is, how little he possess, or what his circumstances are.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.