because of the recent events concerning Islam(i.e Ground-zero mosque, 9/11, Qur'an book burning, etc.) I began to wonder if we westerners really know anything about Islam and its beliefs. It seems to me that all we actually know comes from things we have heard about, like terrorists, women's oppression, and other things like that, that have come from Islamic countries and then we tend to associate all that with the religion. Is our popular knowledge about Islam true? It's not like people take the time to crack open the Qur'an and read its contents, Islamic beliefs isn't widely studied here and barely anyone takes the time to learn about it. Just like to hear your thoughts

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It is natural for people to view other cultures through the lens of their own culture and values. So, by our cultural perspective, the Islamic culture is barbaric and fanatical. But, from their cultural perspective western society is decedant and greedy. This is what I believe the source for what you describe is.
I think it's unrealistic to expect people's understanding of islam to increase. As an atheist, I appreciate it if all religions would keep a low profile in public space. Not completily closed down, but not noisy and demanding either... I have no great desire of picking up the Quran, because I see it as a waste of my time. Even if I did read it, I probably wouldn't be any wiser. That doesn't mean I can't tolerate them, it just mean they must excuse my ignorance as I will excuse theirs, if there were to be a misunderstanding...

It's obvious that many westerners probably knows a little bit less than we should about islam, but that's not necessarily the problem. The problem is that, when the islamic communities are confronted with our ignorance and accusations, we don't listen to what they have to say. Sometimes, being unreligious, I don't care for what they say anyway, but that's not the point. The point is we cannot always hold all of them to the gun point every time some muslim crackjob does something terrible...

But we hear about all these awful things being practised around the islamic world, and refuse to wrap our head around that people reading the same book can have a totally different set of values, and be influenced by other secular values, just like christians can.
I couldn't agree more.
I hate when I hear someone go "Scotland's a Christian country, let the Muslim's live in a Islamic country.". After a few times of hearing this, I asked why, and of course they gave me the same "Their oppressive to women!" at which point I begin to rant on about how Britain and America weren't very different give or take two hundred years. Sure Islamic males can have more than one wife, Abraham after all; took another women to have his child. But to say that because their oppressive to women is just an excuse to be spread hate and racism towards Muslims.
Islam itself is a pretty typical religion. Most people who practice it are peaceful. They believe in Allah and his prophet Muhammad. Some sects are stricter than others, and some branches of those sects can be extremist, but most sects of the religion are no more violent than your average Christian Church. To judge the whole religion because of a few groups is like saying all Christians are homophobic morons just because the Westboro Baptist Church is full of idiots.

Much of the media is anti-Muslim, though. Maybe it's just that I see more of the conservative/Christian side of the media because I go to a strict Catholic school, but still, it definitely doesn't show them in a good light overall.
Most of what I know about Islam comes from what I learned in school, non-fiction tv and other random sources.
I tried reading part of the Koran once, but I didn't really get it. It might be because I'm not used to the format though. I have a basic knowledge of Muslim beliefs and culture, but I haven't had a religious conversation with a Muslim, which at this point in the political world, would not be a good idea unless we were friends. And seeing as I live in whitey-ville, where we have religions varying from christian(protestant, catholic and mormon), atheist, agnostic, jewish and even a couple wiccans, and maybe one Buddhist, but no Hindus or practicing Muslims, I have no one to talk to.
Well you are always welcome to talk to me.. that is if you want to..
Having spent four years living and working in a predominantly Muslim country, I can say that the situation is fairly mutual. Few of the people I've met in Turkey have more than a vague concept of what Christianity is/means/entails. A lot of people assume that Catholic=Christian or that all people from "Western countries" are Christians by default. On the other hand, the glib understanding of many folks in Western countries of Islam is there for all to see. Few people understand for example the huge difference between say Sunni and Shia, or know of the existence of say the Hadith.

This is, however, a bit unavoidable. It's also true to say that people in Kenya don't read up on the culture of Japan. It really becomes an issue when people actually need to know about these kind of things, like if you want to make judge/understand/coexist with a culture.

Our ignorance of say, Hinduism is probably even worse, but it's not as significant because it's not something that people are making important decisions and judgements about.
You should have learned about the five pillars of Islam in school which is the bedrock of the faith. In Texas, the curriculum (that everyone loves to hate because it is too "conservative") requires the basics of the world's major religions be taught in world history which all Texans are required to take. I don't know if all states have such a basic requirement, but they should. I'm not sure when this requirement was added in Texas, but it's certainly been around since 2003 when I took world history.

Wording from the Texas Curriculum guidelines
"describe the historical origins, central ideas, and the spread of major religious and philosophical traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism , Sikhism , and the development of monotheism"
I think I can help you all on this matter.. I am a Muslim, a very religious one too.. any questions you have I will answer them to the best of my knowledge..

Basically Islam is built upon 5 pillars (this is the physical part of the religion) and then there is Islamic faith which based upon 6 pillars

The 5 pillars of Islam are:
1- Saying the Shahada (the testament) (translated to: "There is No diety but Allah(God) and Mohammad is his messenger")
2- Prayer: 5 times a day (dawn,noon,mid-afternoon,dusk,night)
3-Zakat (giving 2.5% of your annual income to the poor)
4-Soum (fasting): During the Holy month of Ramadan Muslims must fast from dawn till dusk (i.e don't eat, drink or have sexual intercourse)
5-Hajj (pilgrimage): Muslims must make pilgramage to makkah if the are capable..
Islamic Faith (Iman) is based on 6 pillars which are believing in:
1- Allah (God)
2- Allah's Angels
3- Allah's Holy Books (Qur'an, Bible, Torah, Zaboor)
4- Allah's Prophets and Messengers
5- The Day of Judgement
6- Qadar (i.e Predestination or Destiny) which is basically believing that Allah has knowledge of everything in His creation. Nothing occurs except by His will and although human beings are given free will all their choices are within Allah's knowledge.
Our popular knowledge is not at all true, I think. This is just like how we detained Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, It's everyone being scared and racist. I think the fact that Islam is so different scares us. I'm not at all saying I agree with some of the ideals of muslims (I am not even religious at all) but I truly think everyone has blown them out of proportion and is very scared of something different than the american standard and the standard american morals


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