From my own personal experience I observed a number of ‘myths’ amongst Muslim communities. I feel that the inability to face up to these issues weakens communities as well as holding back societal integration and inter-faith dialogue. I can speak for nobody but my own experiences and I’m not trying to paint all Muslims with the same brush (after all I identify as Muslim myself), or indeed all Islamic communities. However these seem to be real problems to me.
1. The myth that there is no such occurrence as a Muslim who converts to another faith/religion.
2. That women who wear traditional ‘hijab’ are intrinsically more religious/spritual/pious than those who do not. This is clearly not inherently true and to believe so is to willfully ignore the emphasis placed by God in the Qur’an on other issues as opposed to the very small one of dress-code.
3. That a Muslim man must be circumcised – even those who convert in adult-hood. This is clearly going to repel potential male converts and/or isolate those that do make the leap. A close relative described this act as “what makes a Muslim man”. That is so far from the truth it’s simply laughable.
4. That people who violate cultural norms are automatically ‘kafir’ (nonbelievers). There is a well-known hadith of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) that reports that he said that if you call a believer a non-believer, it is in fact you who are deemed to be the unbeliever. The sheer arrogance of anyone who dares accuse another person who identifies as being Muslim as an unbeliever in light of that saying is frankly astounding.
5. That people of other faiths do have the potential to go to heaven. It explicitly says so in the Qur’an.
6. That religious institutionalism is not Qur’anically mandated. Even small examples like how most Muslims believe an Islamic marriage ceremony (Nikah) must be overseen/conducted by an Imam (a Mosque leader). This is simply incorrect, there is no such rule in the Qu’ran. The idea of inherently fallible scholars creating legally binding rules for other believers based off of their own interpretations of the Qur’an is in no way sanctioned by the holy text itself.
7. Too many Muslims lack even an amateur understanding of their religious text/scholarly history etc, particularly younger generations in non-Muslim countries.
8. That Mosques are (generally) not inclusive places. (Look up the ‘Inclusive Mosque Initiative’ in the UK or ‘Muslims for Progressive Values’ in North America if you want good examples of ones that are.)
9. That Muslim women never marry outside of their faith. It happens…hi! Nice to meet you.
10. This myth that there are no gay/lesbian/bisexual Muslims, let alone same-sex nikahs. There are, and the quicker community leaders face up to this fact the better the welfare of the entire community will be.
I could go on but I don’t want to really, it’s pretty depressing. I think next time I’ll make a post about some great, progressive scholars/organisations to cheer me up and educate people about positive Islamic movements.