Discovering the meaning of Islam

Editors, the Gauntlet,

Re: "Islam in the media," Oct. 19, 2000

I believe I can offer a different perspective on the issue of Islam and the media. I am Canadian, of English, Scottish and Polish ancestry. I was born in Canada and grew up here in a typically Canadian fashion. Yet I am also a Muslim, as I chose to embrace Islam a little less than three years ago.

For the first 23 years of my life, I knew essentially nothing about Islam. I had vague notions of a religion that seemed to emphasize violence and oppress women and non-Muslims. Where did I get these ideas? My only source of information regarding Islam during this time was the popular media. It was not surprising that I developed this impression of Islam, given the media’s selective emphasis on the acts of violence committed by a tiny fraction of Muslims, and on certain oppressive policies and practices of the governments of various Muslim countries. It was only after I studied Islam that I realized how completely wrong this conception of Islam had been.

I learned that Islam condemns terrorism. Regardless of any claims to the contrary, a Muslim who commits such acts is going against the teachings of Islam. While there are many Muslim countries, none of them truly implement Islamic law and they cannot be considered "Islamic states." Many laws and policies in Muslim countries do not have any basis in Islam–sometimes they even go against it.

For millions of Muslims around the world, Islam is a way of life that emphasizes faith in God, prayer and charity. Islam compels every Muslim to speak the truth and to fight against oppression and injustice. It is a faith in which women are honoured and respected, mothers are held in the highest esteem, and whose teachings nurture loving families and require that the poor and needy are cared for, regardless of whether they are Muslim or not. Does the overall portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media reflect this? I encourage everyone to educate themselves about Islam. On campus the Muslim Students’ Association (muslim@ucalgary.ca) is offering a free "Introduction to Islam" course. Learn, think, and decide for yourself.

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