August 26, 2006

Willful Ignorance About Islam

Izzy Mo had an interesting comment on her blog: "Yesterday, a coworker asked me if there was a difference between Islam and Muslims. Really, she did. She thought that Islam was something different from what Muslims practice. It was then when I realized just how much work we have to do. I forget that there are millions of Americans who don’t know the basics of our deen. And you’re a genius if you know that Muslims don’t eat pork."

The fact of the matter is that everything written above is true. Milady and I stumbled upon a short Youtube video (run time: 4:37) by the Muslim comedian Mo Amer who asked a number of Americans outside a Houston comedy club questions about Islam and Arabs. Even Izzy's comment, "'re a genius if you know that Muslims don't eat pork" is correct to a degree: in the video, five of seven respondants got the question right, but one answered "beef" and another "cow."

I've had my own experiences with people who are ignorant about Islam although, thankfully, incidents like Izzy's aren't too common here in S'pore where the Muslim community has been living for centuries and the non-Muslims are relatively knowledgeable. Most of my experiences have been on the Internet (Beliefnet in particular, when I used to be a regular there).

I do agree that there's a strong need to educate people around the world (not just Americans) about Islam. The problem, IMO, is that many people have hardened attitudes about Islam that are wrong. Not only do these people not have open minds about Islam, but they tend to have both a shallow understanding about Islam and Muslims while being argumentative (the "insta-expert" syndrome). This past week, I came across a post that seems to sum up the depths to which Islamophobes sink. This clown says, "Oh, yes, we're willfully ignorant about Islam," to which I would agree, but his solution is that people should read the various websites he's linked to, all of which are stridently Islamophobic (the usual suspects, most of which should be familiar to my Muslim readers and none of which are deserving of additional attention). To the clown I would say, "Yes, you and people who think like you are willfully ignorant of Islam, very much so, but your sources of information about Islam will only make you more ignorant, not less." (Not that I think the likes of him would care.)

And so, while I agree with Izzy when she says, "...we need some dawah power", we must also do our da'wah intelligently, applying the principles of advertising when we can*, so as to counter the propaganda of the "willfully ignorant" and change some attitudes, insha'allah.

* For who has the most experience in trying to counter negative attitudes publicly than advertisers?


M. Shahin said...

Excellent Clip! I was laughing throughout.

I think American's knowledge of Islam is getting better, but still a lot of work to do.

Jannah said...

That "Dawah Power" got me.

I think the best way for dawah is when muslims who live in non-arab countries apply Islam properly by actions- it leaves a much deeper impact than words.
For example:
- Smile alot.
- Don't make anger an option.
- Help the poor regardless of their religion.
- Treat non-muslims respectfully even if they disrespect your faith.
- Do not repay any harm to any one.
- When people get surprised at this weird forgiving & peaceful behaviour you have, mention to them that it's Islam that taught you this. (never put down a chance to make Dawah).

An Iraqi family heard an soldier saying that he's hungry, so they invited him to their home and fed him cooked delicious food. The soldier told the man: " I kill your people yet you invite me to your home and feed me?"
The man answered: " My religion taught me to never see a hungry person and not feed him. This is my religion."
The soldier then left the service and went back to his home country and never got into war again.