Students, faculty explain misconceptions of Islam

 

Graphic by Johana Rosendo
Graphic by Johana Rosendo

Although a Methodist-affiliated, the University of Indianapolis is home to various faiths, one of which is Islam. According to the Pew Research Center, there are more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and more than 3 million live in the United States.

The Five Pillars of Islam are daily and yearly practices for Muslims, according to Adjunct Professor of Religion and Philosophy James Willis. Willis said that these rigorous practices are not seen as a burden to Muslims, because the practices are something that Muslims celebrate. The Five Pillars, Willis explained, allow for a meaningful, practice-based faith.

Senior political science and international relations major Tosin Salau was raised in a Muslim household but did not start seriously practicing her religion until she came from Nigeria. She said she was inspired to rediscover her faith when she met friends in a Quran study group during her freshman and sophomore years.

“When I actually started practicing my religion, it kind of gave me a voice of my own,” Salau said. “I [have] always wanted to speak out for something.”

Salau credits her desire to speak out about her religion to misconceptions about Islamic practices and beliefs in the media. According to Salau, Islam is not a culture or ethnicity—it is a religion, and generalizations about Muslims portrayed in the media often are skewed. For example, Salau said, Saudi Arabia’s not allowing women to drive is often interpreted for Islam not allowing women to drive, although the strict laws of Saudi Arabia do not reflect the beliefs of all Muslims. To prevent misinformation, Salau encourages others to ask questions whenever they have concerns about Islamic practices or beliefs, rather than make assumptions.

Like Salau,  junior supply chain management major Mashaer Musayri feels that Islam is often misrepresented. Musayri said that assumptions have been made about her because she dresses in accordance with her religious beliefs.

“Many people judge me by what I wear,” Musayri said, “for example, my [head] scarf. And I hate that, because I would treat you like [a] human. I will respect you if you respect me.”

Willis agrees with Salau and Musayri that many people form opinions about Islam without being fully educated on the topic.

“I think a lot of people have a very uninformed view that is based on not much information,” Willis said.  “People hold views, but they don’t particularly know why. They haven’t read the Quran for themselves. They haven’t studied Islam for themselves.”

From the religion’s beginnings, Islam has stressed a sense of equality and a sense of justice, according to Willis. He says that right and proper relationships between people, families, members of communities and different faiths are established in Islam. For example, according to the Quran, there are limits set so that neither partner can take advantage of and gain wealth if a divorce occurs. If a wife is widowed, and no inheritance is left, her in-laws are obligated to provide for her for one year or until she remarries.

Willis said that having a space on campus for Muslim students to pray is vitally important. He said that as long as UIndy recognizes interfaith students and provides them with a place to freely practice their religion, then the university is accommodating its diverse student body.

“I know for a fact [that] UIndy does a number of things and sponsors a number of events talking about interfaith,” Willis said. “I think as long as we can contribute to that [interfaith dialogue] and I think that falls on both Muslim students and non-Muslim students, it falls on members of leadership, it falls on members of the community, and it falls on everyone that is a part of UIndy, to contribute to interfaith understanding and discussion. And I think that those are things that UIndy does well, and that is always something that we can do more of.”