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7 Myths About Islam
By Timothy R. Furnish

Mr. Furnish, Ph.D (Islamic History), is Assistant Professor, History, Georgia Perimeter College, Dunwoody, GA 30338. Mr. Furnish is the author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden (Praeger, 2005).

One of the few positive effects of 9/11 has been renewed American interest in Islam and the Middle East. Unfortunately, much of the information disseminated in the media about those topics is ignorant and misleading. This is unfortunate because any hope that the
predominantly-Christian West and the Muslim world might transcend conflict requires that the former be accurately informed about the latter (and vice-versa, but that's an issue for another column). There are in particular seven myths about Islam and Islamic history that have been repeated so often in the media that they've achieved conventional wisdom status.

First, it is untrue that Islam is the world's fastest-growing religion. (Mormonism and Scientology also claim this, but few outside of Salt Lake City and Hollywood believe it.) As Philip Jenkins of Penn State University demonstrates in his work Christianity in particular Pentecostalismis the world's most-rapidly growing faith. Currently there are 2 billion Christians and 1.3 billion Muslims (out of a world population of 6 billion), and in the 21st century Christianity will maintain its lead, thanks to explosive growth in sub-Saharan Africa and China.

Second, despite the claims of even President Bush in a number of public statements, Islam is not solely a "religion of peace." Yes, there are verses of toleration in the Qur'an: Sura(chapter) al-
Baqarah:256 says "there shall be no compulsion in religion;" Sura al-Furqan:65ff says that Allah will be merciful to those who repent and do good works; and Sura al-Nisa':19ff enjoins Muslim men to provide financially for wives and ex-wives. But verses such as these are arguably outweighed by others: Sura Anfal:12ff and Sura Muhammad:3ff command the beheading of unbelievers; Sura al-Nisa':34ff allows for beating of one's wives and in verses 74ff and 94ff, promises great reward for those who die fighting for Allah; Sura al-Ma'idah:51 says "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends."
Of course there are violent sections in the Bible or at least in the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament (Joshua and David were military leaders as much as religious ones). But no one denies that, as many both Muslim and non-Muslim ”deny these violent and misogynistic
passages in the Qur'an. Many arguments can be made against such verses (they must be contextualized, they are applicable only to that time, they are metaphorical, etc.) but one cannot say they do not exist. Someone who simply rehashs that "the Qur'an teaches peace" obviously hasn't read it. No doubt most Muslims do not read the passages about decapitation as a blueprint for today. But just as some Christians take literally, for example, the command of to Christ
handle poisonous snakes (Luke 10:19), some Muslims take literally the injunction to behead unbelievers. And the latter practice is a bit more injurious to other folks than the former.

Third on the misinformation parade is the allegation that jihad does not mean holy war. This falsehood crops up often in text books and in the media, where the politically-correct tirelessly repeat that jihad actually means only "striving to be a good Muslim." This is half-
right. But early on in Islamic history, jihad came to mean fighting against unbelievers in order to expand the territory under Muslim rule. al-Bukhari lived in the 9th century CE and was the most authoritative compiler of sayings attributed to the prophet Muhammad; he mentions jihad many times as meaning "holy war." Jihad as "Muslim piety" is mainly the province of the Sufis, the mystics of Islam, and has become a minority view today. Furthermore, Islamic history is chock-full of leaders declaring jihads against their enemies even the moderately Muslim Ottoman Empire declared a holy war against the French, British and Russians in World War I!

Fourth is the whopper that Islam spread peacefully from Arabia, as if the followers of Muhammad went door-to-door ringing doorbells and handing out brochures. From the mid-7th century CE Muslims militarily overran regions and then pressured the conquered to convert. (Yes, Christian kingdoms did the same—but, again, no one denies that!) Muslim Arab armies destroyed the entire Persian Empire (modern Iran), replacing its official Zoroastrian religion; about the same time they invaded the surviving Christian Roman (Byzantine) Empire and within a few decades had taken half its territory. In 732 CE a Muslim army from Morocco was in France! By 750 CE Muslims ruled from the Iberian Peninula to India. And Muslim armies would stay on the offensive for the next millennium, with only two exceptions: the "Reconquista" in
Iberia and the Crusades.

The fifth tiresome myth is that the European Catholic Crusaders started the war with Islam and that for eight centuries Muslims have been brooding over the horrible injustices thereof. Actually, the Crusades, 1095-1291, were simply the first time that European Christians managed to take the fight to their enemy's territory. And besides: why are the Crusades being constantly used as a club with which to beat the West remember the scathing attacks on President Bush when, not long after 9/11, he referred to a "crusade" against terrorism? when the Muslims won? Usama bin Ladin's constant references to Americans as "Crusaders" is thus a perfect marriage of
historical illiteracy with keen psychological insight into his enemy's self-hate.

her fairy tale about Islam is that poverty produces terrorists.
This hoary myth tells us more about the worldview of its American adherents than it does about the ranks of the Islamists. Most of the 9/11 and London bombers were university-educated and at least middle-class. The same is true for Palestinian suicide bombers and most likely those in Iraq. Naive Americans take their domestic paradigm about poverty and crime that the former causes the latter and apply it to a context where it doesn't fit Regarding the recent London bombings, a British terrorism expert said that "socioeconomic background does not appear to [have] play[ed] a role." Poverty may be necessary, but it is hardly sufficient, to explain Islamic terrorism.

And finally, we have politically-correct mendacity number seven, which even British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently repeated:
that Islam has been "hijacked" by terrorists. In this view Bin Ladin, the ayatollahs in Iran, the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the Saudis with their Wahhabism (a particularly puritanical brand of Sunni Islam) all are twisting a "moderate" religion to suit their purpose. The "Islam = peace" brigade essentializes Islam as peaceful.
UBL essentializes it as jihad. Although there are Qur'an verses, and sayings of Muhammad, on both sides, many do support Bin Ladin and his ilk. Also, Islamic history is replete with Muslim scholars whom the modern Islamic fundamentalists draw upon. The most famous is Ibn
Taymiyah who, 700 years before George Bush said "you're either for us or against us," divided the world into the domain of Islam and that of war. The only good ruler is a Muslim ruler, asserted Ibn Taymiyah.
And by that he meant one that enforces shari`ah, or Islamic law. Most Muslims do not agree, but some do. (And only 10 percent of 1.3 billion is 130 million.) But it is no use pretending that the UBLs of the world have falsely "hijacked" Islam. Indeed, their view of the faith however intolerant and violent it may seem has a basis in Islamic theology and history.

Islam is where Christianity was before the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and then the Enlightenment led the West to divorce religion and state, thereby removing (mostly) the threat of religious-based warfare. As a fellow monotheist with Muslims, I pray that the moderate strands within Islam win out over the more fundamentalist ones, allowing that civilization to follow suit. And for we in the West to help with that, we need to open our eyes to the reality of the harsher aspects of Islam and Islamic history. Anything else is simple and dangerous self-deception.


Posted by: "Gary Prest"

Dr Gary Prest has retired from superintendentcy of Bloomington Public Schools. If you have any questions, please contact Deb Bunkholt at952-681-6402.


The Seven Myths of Islam

Reply By Mike Ghouse | August 07, 2006

This piece was written in response to Timothy R. Furnish's original article "7 Myths of Islam".

1. Islam is world's fastest growing religion

2. Islam is not solely a religion of peace

3. Jihad does not mean holy war

4. Islam spread peacefully from Arabia

5. Catholic Crusaders started the war

6. Poverty produces terrorists

7. Islam has been hijacked by terrorists

8. Media is controlled by the Zionists

9. 911 was a Zionist conspiracy

1. Islam is world's fastest growing religion

I don't believe there are any facts or figures to support it in comparison to other faiths. Even the 6 Million Muslim population in the US is guesstimate. I was told that Brazil has nearly 6 Million Muslims, a piece of information most of us don't know about. Some 30 years ago, we did not have a count of Muslims in China either. The numbers are close approximates but not actual facts. Figures can be interpreted to suit one's needs. If the Muslim population is 100 - and 5 people convert every year it is 5%, on the other hand if Mormon population is 25 and 2 people convert every year, it amounts to 8%.

I would suggest for Muslims or any one to drop making a big deal out of these numbers, what will it serve? Influence others to convert? No Sir bob, particularly in Islam, there is no compulsion for any one to become a Muslim, God told his prophet, pass the message and not worry about the results. These numbers are for political purposes and are not needed for religious purposes and all religious groups are guilty of exaggerating these numbers, and this mendacity is against the fiber of every religion, including Islam.

2. Islam is not solely a religion of peace.

Your positive and negative quotes are indeed correct. But your comment that those verses are violent is not. First of all, all religions, yes, every religion is peace, the very purpose of religion is to bring about peace and equilibrium to an individual and what surrounds that individual; living beings and the environment. God could have made every one an angel, he did not. (God could be: it, he or she). Every verse in Qurâan and any holy book can be looked from two different points of view... from an evil point or from goodness point depending on one's proclivities. God let's you make that decision as an Individual, one has that freedom.  Religion is goodness, pure goodness, deviation from it is evil. What Osama did was pure evil, as it killed a human life and what surrounds it.

Indeed the whole thing about religious scripture is about good v bad. In every faith there are conflicts or wars between good and evil. No religion is an exception to this. It is the purpose of religion to give hope to the mankind, and bring equilibrium that good will survives evil. It is that hope that is crucial for the survival of mankind. Islam is solely a religion of peace, as other religions are, some of its followers are not, and it is the same with every religion.

3. Jihad does not mean holy war.

I agree with you that a few religious leaders at one time or the other have abused religion. The word Holy war does not exist in Qurâan. It is a word that came into currency with the Crusades, the holy wars. There was a holy war in Mahabharata, much earlier than the Torah, Bible or Qurâan. The word Jihad became the Holy war from around the 900 AD, indeed, we Muslims were misled by that interpretation for nearly a millennium. 911 really made us look for the meaning and we found it entirely different. However, Most Muslims knew about it but did not have the guts to speak out as any silent majority in any religion is.

Let me give a glaring example, with apologies to my Christian and Jewish friends ( in this instance and people of all faith in other circumstances) for the pain they go thru when they read the Qurâan. In the first Sura, there is a verse which says

Al-Fatihah 001:006 :

Transliteration Ihdina alssirata almustaqeema

Literal translation: Guide us (to) the way/road, the straight/direct.

Al-Fatihah 001:007
Transliteration Sirata allatheena anAAamta AAalayhim ghayri almaghdoobi AAalayhim wala alddalleena 

Literal translation: (The) way/road (of) those You blessed on them, not (those) the angered on them, and nor the misguided.

Now check these 16 translations - You will find one that is dangerous. Quran is not the property of Muslims, it is a holy book for all, as other holy books are. You can read any book and find the beauty of making one a better human through various rituals.

  1. Yusuf Ali The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. 
  2. Pickthal The path of those whom Thou hast favored; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray. 
  3. Arberry the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray.
  4. Shakir The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray. 
  5. Sarwar the path of those to whom You have granted blessings, those who are neither subject to Your anger nor have gone astray
  6. Khalifa the path of those whom you blessed; not of those who have deserved wrath, nor of the strayers. 
  7. Hilali/Khan The Way of those on whom you have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).
  8. H/K/Saheeh The path of those upon whom you have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. 
  9. Malik The Way of those whom you have favored; not of those who have earned Your wrath, or of those who have lost The Way. [7]
  10. QXP This has always been the Way of those whom You rewarded. And not the path of those who had to face Your Requital (for blind following and arrogance), and not the path of those who faltered and deviated from the Straight Path. 
  11. Maulana Ali The path of those upon whom Thou has bestowed favors, not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.
  12. Free Minds The path of those whom You have blessed, not those who have incurred the wrath, nor the misguided. 
  13. Qaribullah the Path of those upon whom You have favored, not those upon whom is the anger, nor the astray. (Amen please answer)  
  14. George Sale in the way of those to whom Thou hast been gracious; not of those against whom Thou art incensed, nor of those who go astray. 
  15. JM Rodwell The path of those to whom Thou hast been gracious;-with whom thou art not angry, and who go not astray. 
  16. Asad the way of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, not of those who have been condemned [by Thee], nor of those who go astray! 

Let me admit a mistake most Muslims make... they read the Qurâan in Arabic and seldom read the translation. They don't feel the need to do that. I did not either for a long time and it is the holy book. This is where unbenounced mischief occurs. Most likely those non-Muslims who are upset about the Holy book read the translation of this guy, whom you may have identified above. It is the Hilali guy # 7.  He has inserted words that do not exist is the Qurâan... as shown above...right here. On the top of that, this book is freely distributed. We are trying to get this book off the shelves.

One of the most beautiful verses of Holy Bhagvad Gita comes to my mind finding the truth is one's own responsibility.  If you read some thing about any faith,  or hear it, and if it is agonizing, please take the time to understand it, it is your own responsibility to find the truth. The truth is every religion is beautiful. If you have an uprootable hate against people of other faith, it is your problem, you can solve it by asking the right questions and finding the truth. No Imam, Clergy, Pundit should be held responsible to reaffirm the prejudices. The truth is every religion is beautiful. God willing we will put that stuff on

4. Islam spread peacefully from Arabia

It is not an apology but a fact of life, to commit excesses is human.  Through out the history of mankind men have committed crimes on their own, or in the authority of his or her majesty by the zealous assistants. No king, no saint, no leader has been free from it. My apologies to all those who have been forced to convert. The forced conversion is part, but not a major item of Islam. Think about these facts: 

i)                     Whether it is Iran, India or Spain... no one was forced to change their names or cultures....

ii)                    When the Muslim rule was at its it in Spain or India, if they had forced it, there would not have been any non-Muslim in those lands, they did not, some did. In India, Hindus are still 80% of the billion some people in Spain the inquisition did reduce the Jews and Muslims, but still they were never the majority there.

iii)                  iii) Even the converts during prophet's time were not asked to change their names, the name Mohammad itself remained prior to his preaching and after he was anointed as the messenger of God.

iv)                  iv) Indeed, there are forced conversions going on around the world, though they are insignificant in numbers, they are still not a good thing, and it is against the religion of Islam. Not all people violate traffic rules, but part of the budget of cities comes from it, and a few lawyers make a livelihood out of it. If all Americans or people of any nation were all good clean people the entire police force, law enforcement, attorneys, judges, police cars and the car makers, computer makers, the newspaper, Television all will crumble the economy will be in shambles. Evil is part of the life, we have to learn to minimize it through education and not oppression or force.

v)                    To put is simply the world has good, bad and ugly people, and all religions are without a doubt the balancing factor and not the aggravating element.

vi)                  Ego is the root cause of all evil and religions first job is to get rid of it. Every one bows in prayers in all religions and claims God to be superior

5. Catholic Crusaders started the war

They did.  However, in all reality, in my personal opinion, the Crusades were a manufacture of the Kings of Europe who were threatened by the onslaught of Muslim Warrior Kings from the south (Kings have no religion as the terrorists don't have one).  To retain their kingdoms, the European Kings sought the pope's help in falsely calling it the HOLY war, so the sucker commoners can go and give up their bloody life for that war monger king. The kings had no good intentions other than saving their kingdom and expanding or in this case retaining their public loot.  Remember the 1000 year war? The French, the German, the English they were in eternal wars. Didn't the kings until the year 1900 engaged in taking over other's territories? Were there any peaceful Kings who did not wage war and onslaught on other kingdoms?  Those  idiots were doing it for the expansion of their kingdoms and power, Islam was just an excuse as Christianity was, to wage the holy wars against the infidels Jews and Muslims. That's where the world Holy war got currency.

6. Poverty produces terrorists

This is non-sense. Poverty does not produce terrorists, Oppression does. This would be demeaning the people who are poor and it is absolutely absurd.  The terrorists in Palestine are a product of oppression. Did you know the Jewish terrorism from 1916 thru 1955? Check up with the British archives. They were there first ones to start terrorism in the 20th century.  

The almighty British Empire called many an Indian terrorist...wasn't our own George W called a terrorist? In history you can find a lot more examples. There was a rebel called Shivaji, who was called terrorist for he rebelled against the tyranny of the Moghul Emperor of the time. What about IRS in Ireland? What about the Red Brigade in Japan? Tamil Tigers? It is not poverty but oppression. I don't know where you got this from. The arrogance of power makes people think in terms of oppression. You can never oppress a people and not expect them to rebel. If you have tanks, they have the crushed rocks to fight. If you hit a child, he can only bite or throw a rock... as he cannot fight with you on par.

In the whole history of mankind, oppression has never worked and never will.

7. Islam has been hijacked by terrorists

It is true - and the terrorists are less than one percent of the population ( you can refer to another column on this: ;  Extremist, radicals,fanatics and Monkies. Media has barked against the wrong tree all along. Call the bad people bad people, don't give them a religion. The silent majority is wrestling to take it back, and the Media can certainly help them.

8. Media is controlled by the Zionists

It is a myth among Muslims. American Media is indeed not a media; it is a business venture and produces the propaganda that gives them the best yield. I challenge you.... you  and I can sit on the phone and watch 2 hours of Fox or CNN and I will guarantee you, that you would agree with me that it is not news, it is propaganda. Are you willing to take the challenge?

However, among many of the American Journalists, particularly Jewish Journalist painfully attempt to be fair. Others don't. Fox is blatantly biased, so are the other channels.

9. 911 was a Zionist conspiracy

JFK, Elvis Presley, and 911 conspiracy theorists abound. However Osama had acknowledged his involvement, it is always good thing to have doubts and do the research to satisfy one's curiosity.

 Why have we not seen this blasted out in the non-traditional media?

Several video's are available, to name a few:

9/11 conspiracy theorists thriving
By JUSTIN POPE, AP Education Writer

As far as 911 being a conspiracy or a production of an excuse to rattle the middle east, I don't think it has much substantiation. Osama did it. He has never denied even though he is being hunted down.

Speak up, silent no more!®
Mike Ghouse
(214) 325-1916
World Muslim Congress

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