By Hanna Yusuf
November 05, 2015
Another day, another myth about Muslims. The most recent one to set tongues wagging is that poppies offend Muslims. According to far-right groups like Britain First, Muslims hate poppies. Their claim comes after a few individuals, who are widely condemned in the Muslim community, criticised the poppy on the basis that it constitutes an endorsement of wars in the Middle East.
What far-right groups fail to mention, however, is that many Muslim soldiers have died fighting for the British army, and many Muslim citizens make an active effort to remember the war dead. Groups of young Muslims, such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, sell poppies at London Underground stations to raise money for Poppy Appeal. One Muslim designer went as far as designing a “poppy hijab” in a bid to unite the two cultures, and give British Muslims a unique way of remembering the war dead. Come Remembrance Day, over one million Muslims plan on wearing the poppy.
Despite all of this, Muslims have become susceptible to all kinds of willfully dishonest claims. Here are five of the most common misconceptions:
- “Muslims hate the West”
Being Muslim and a Westerner aren’t mutually exclusive. Many people in Britain identify as Western Muslims. In fact, this article has been written by one. According to a survey by Gallup in 2009, the proportion of Muslims who identify with Britain is higher than that of the general population. It found that 77 per cent of Muslims identify with Britain, compared to 50 per cent of the population. At the time, Muhammad Yunus, a senior analyst at Gallup, said: “British Muslims are more likely to identify strongly with their nation, and to express stronger confidence in its democratic institutions, while maintaining a high degree of religious identity”.
- “Muslims are taking over”
Muslims make up 4 per cent of the total population in the UK. This means that even if all of its Muslims came together in London, they would make up a quarter of the capital’s total population. Even if Muslims wanted to, they wouldn’t be able to “take over” one city, let alone an entire nation.
And no, despite some reports, Muhammad is not the “most popular” boys’ name in Britain. This result was based on a sample of names entered by 56,157 members of Babycentre.co.uk (less than 0.009 per cent of the population). Figures by official bodies, such as the General Register Office for Scotland, showed that Muhammad is actually the 52nd most popular name in Scotland, and the 15th in England and Wales.
- “Muslims hate Jesus”
Jesus (peace be upon him) is a key figure in Islam. Muslims believe that he is the son of the Virgin Mary, and one of the greatest messengers of God. There are many verses in the Koran that highlight his good character. Not only do Muslims sincerely love him, but he is also seen as a paragon of virtue.
- “Muslim women have no rights/are oppressed”
There’s often a conflation between Islam as a religion and the cultures of some Muslim-majority countries. Like a lot of non-Muslim countries, in some majority Muslim countries patriarchy is a huge problem, but what people usually fail to mention is how many Muslims are at the forefront of the battle against it. Only last year, Masih Alinejad, an Iranian writer and activist, launched a movement called My Stealthy Freedom. The campaign encouraged Iranian women to take photos without their headscarves, to protest against the restrictive policies implemented by the Iranian government. Women in Morocco also protested outside their parliament last year to pressure the government into repealing a rape-marriage law. The law was later amended.
It is also worth noting that four out of five countries with the largest Muslim populations (Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey) have had female heads of states. Out of its 44 presidents, the US, otherwise known as the “land of the free”, has only ever had first ladies. As for us in the UK, the Tories don’t miss an opportunity to remind us of that one time we had a female Prime Minister. But by the looks of the male-female ratio in the current cabinet, there’s a slim chance of that happening again (even if Theresa May – the only female contender deemed plausible – does run against George Osborne and Boris Johnson in 2020).
- “The Koran promotes violence”
I won’t start with the old “context is key” argument when it comes to the widely cherry-picked verses in the Koran. Instead I’ll give an example of a certified, unambiguous verse that can be understood without any context. Verse 6:151 in the Quran says, “do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct”. In other words, murder is wrong. In addition to the many verses condemning violence and murder, there are verses that condemn those who selectively pick parts of the Quran to serve their own agenda. So anyone who purports that the Koran condones violence is not only misinterpreting but is also probably being dishonest.