Teen Vogue is just that: a magazine for teenage girls. Articles featured on its front page today include “Justin Bieber and Sam Smith Are Already Listening to Tori Kelly’s New Album, and You Should Be, Too”; “The 35 Coolest Back-to-School Backpacks”; “7 Desserts That Require No Baking At All”; “The Complete Guide to Washing Your Makeup Brushes — Yes, You Need To”; and the immortal “I Understand My Period, But What’s Coming Out Of Me The Other Three Weeks of the Month?” In that company, “10 Misconceptions About Islam That Muslim Americans Are Tired of Hearing” stands out like Hillary Clinton at a Tea Party meeting, and manifests the indefatigable determination of Muslims to proselytize anywhere and everywhere they can, as well as the naive multiculturalism of Leftist publishers and editors who give them a platform to speak positively about their religion that they would never offer to Jews or Christians or any other religious group.
The Muslim teen laments how trying it is to grow up Muslim in America. How hard can it be? She’s writing for Teen Vogue for goodness sake.
This piece, like so many others of its kind, packages its proselytizing in the guise of clearing up “misconceptions” that people supposedly have about Islam, and follows the pattern of other articles like it in presenting some “misconceptions” that no one really holds and are entirely innocuous anyway amidst others that are more or less straight proselytizing and outright deception designed to keep Americans — even those far more concerned about Kendall Jenner and Katy Perry than about Mohammad Abdulazeez and Usaama Rahim — ignorant and complacent about the jihad threat.
And it starts, unsurprisingly, with a highly questionable anecdote that situates Muslims firmly as victims, and smears opponents of jihad terror as bigots:
“10 Misconceptions About Islam That Muslim Americans Are Tired of Hearing,” by Hishaam Siddiqi, Teen Vogue, July 6, 2015:
“Can you grab that bottle of Sriracha on the top shelf?” my mother asked, as we made our way down the “ethnic” aisle at our local grocery store. It was around 5:30pm, my father was almost home from work, and my mother and I were out getting last minute ingredients for dinner. As we waited in the checkout line, waiting to pay for our goods, I hear a voice behind me, “You here to steal something?”
I turn around to find a tall man, broad shoulders, a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead, looking straight at my mother. I stand there bewildered, wondering if this was an acquaintance of hers trying to be funny or make some sort of weird joke.
“Are you here to blow something up? Why are you wearing that?” he barks again, referring to my mother’s hijab and abaya. At this point, everyone within earshot tenses up and I find myself flooding with both embarrassment and panic. What was this guy trying to get at? We were just at the grocery store trying to get home on time, and this man, who we had never seen before, was going out of his way to harass my mother.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident. My mother, petite as she may be, has no problem holding her own and isn’t new to being singled out and hassled for her choice of Islamic clothing. She clearly and eloquently explained her religious garb to the man, told him to not yell at her, and swiftly sent him on his way.
Note the semaphores: “the ‘ethnic’ aisle at our local grocery store” — America is intrinsically racist, “otherizing” racial and religious minorities in innumerable ways large and small, even to the point of labeling an aisle containing food that Muslims eat the “ethnic” aisle, as if it is not quite American. “Baseball cap pulled low over his forehead” — a racist, redneck yahoo. “A tall man, broad shoulders…My mother, petite as she may be” — Muslims are weak, small, endangered victims of monstrous, hulking bullies. “Are you here to blow something up? Why are you wearing that?” — only idiots who do things like berate strangers in supermarkets are concerned about Islamic terrorism. “Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident. My mother, petite as she may be, has no problem holding her own and isn’t new to being singled out and hassled for her choice of Islamic clothing.” — Muslims are routinely subjected to this kind of treatment, you see. And while there may indeed exist baseball cap-wearing louts who bark at petite hijabis in the ethnic aisle, although I highly doubt it, the claim that this anecdote represents a general tendency is belied by FBI hate crime statistics that show that anti-Jewish hate crimes are over four times more common than anti-Muslim hate crimes — but you don’t see Jews whining in Teen Vogue about creeps who yelled at them in a supermarket.
Growing up, I’ve had plenty of these experiences. Whether it was strange looks at my mother or jokes about my Arabic name, life as a Muslim in post 9/11 America isn’t the cutest feeling. The constant villainization of Muslims in mainstream media makes it difficult to do even simple things such as buy groceries or get through airport security without crude jokes or dangerous assumptions, and with the murder of three innocent Muslim kids in Chapel Hill this past year, it’s clear that stereotyping can lead to even fatal consequences.
“The constant villainization of Muslims in mainstream media”? What? Where? When? Has Siddiqi never heard of Christiane Amanpour or Niraj Warikoo or Lisa Wangsness or Manya Brachear or a thousand other mainstream media “journalists” who do their utmost to whitewash Islamic jihad terror and to “villainize” those who oppose it? Is there even a single instance of this “villainization” to which she could honestly point? The mainstream media goes out of its way to distance Islam and jihad from terrorism, and seizes upon every possible opportunity to present Muslims and Islam in a positive light. This claim that Muslims are “villainized” in the media is designed to inhibit even further any honest reporting about jihad terror activity.
There is actually no evidence whatsoever that the murder of the Muslims in Chapel Hill was motivated by hatred of Muslims. The fact that Hishaam Siddiqi (along with many other Muslim writers these days) refers to it reveals how rarely Muslims are really victimized: instead of being able to point to an actual murder inspired by anti-Muslim hatred, they keep having to point to this one, in which the victims happened to be Muslim but their religion had nothing to do with why they were murdered. This is because there aren’t any murders inspired by anti-Muslim hatred.
Fortunately we live in the age of technology and open information—we don’t always have to be victims of ignorance and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Misconceptions can be overcome with a simple but powerful thing, knowledge: here are ten common misconceptions about Islam and Muslims to help you break the cycle.
No one wants to be ignorant and hateful, or to be thought of as such. In this connection, remember the supermarket racist’s question: “Are you here to blow something up?” To be concerned about Muslims because of jihad terrorism, you see, is ignorant and hateful. And now Hishaam Siddiqi helpfully provides the antidote.
1. Muslim women have no rights
This is definitely a hot-topic and complicated issue but one of my favorite misconceptions to tackle. It’s important to realize the difference between cultural influences and religious policy. Many countries across the world, including Muslim countries, have patriarchal cultures (cultures in which men are automatically assumed to lead), which are often socially constructed and influenced by the traditions, gender roles, and practices of that culture. Islam as a religion, however, preaches equality of the sexes. There are many Muslim women who have made great accomplishments in the fields of science, entertainment, academia, art, and politics—just this year, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, a professor of biology, became president of Muslim majority African country Mauritius!
It’s a common Islamic apologist’s claim that the mistreatment of women in Muslim countries is due to culture, not Islam, but this is absurd on its face. Islam is an all-encompassing system, covering every aspect of life. Does Hishaam Siddiqi expect us to believe that in countries where it has been firmly entrenched for nearly 1,400 years, it hasn’t had any effect on the culture? On the contrary: in such countries, Islam is the culture. And while the claim that “Muslim women have no rights” is an overstated straw man, the mistreatment of women in Islamic countries is firmly rooted in Islam. The Qur’an likens a woman to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills: “Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will” (2:223). It declares that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man: “Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her” (2:282). It allows men to marry up to four wives, and have sex with slave girls also: “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice” (4:3). It rules that a son’s inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter: “Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” (4:11). Worst of all, the Qur’an tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them” (4:34). It allows for marriage to pre-pubescent girls, stipulating that Islamic divorce procedures “shall apply to those who have not yet menstruated” (65:4).
2. Muslims worship a different God
A lot of people think Allah is a specific Islamic deity, but really it just means ‘god’ in Arabic. Christian Arabs even use the word Allah when referring or praying to God. And since Islam is an Abrahamic religion, Muslims believe Allah is the same God who Jesus, Moses, and other biblical prophets all prayed to.
This is a proselytizing point, based on the Qur’an (29:46, which says that Muslims worship the same deity as that of Jews and Christians). It is designed simply to mitigate the strangeness of Islam that many feel, arising from the huge amount of violence done in its name and in accord with its teachings.
3. Islam doesn’t mix with other religions Again, it’s important to make the distinction between the behavior of various cultures and politics of countries compared to actual religious theology. Islam is an Abrahamic religion, which is in the same family of religions as Judaism and Christianity. All three of the religions share many similarities, including important religious figures, historical events, and spiritual beliefs. In fact, Muslims are religiously required to believe in Jesus as a divine prophet. There have been numerous periods of history throughout the Middle East where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together for centuries.
…as long as the Jews and Christians knew their place, and paid the jizya, a Qur’an-specified poll tax, “with willing submission,” and felt themselves “subdued” (Qur’an 9:29). If, on the other hand, Jews and Christians refused to be subservient, they were massacred — as in the murder of 4,000 Jews in Granada in 1066, following the appointment of a Jewish vizier over the city, which Muslims believed violated the Qur’anic imperative that Jews must be subjugated.
4. Muslims must engage in Jihad, also known as holy-war
This misconception was a huge buzzword right after 9/11 and still does come up every now and then. A lot of people misconstrue Jihad to be a religious agenda to wage war, and is often cited as the reasoning for much of fringe Islamic extremism. However, Jihad doesn’t necessarily mean holy-war, it means to simply struggle for God—an overwhelming majority of Muslims are nonviolent and unfairly lumped with Islamic extremists. Jihad, as most Muslims see it, can include anything from wearing a head scarf to school even though you get teased for it to setting aside allowance money to donate. While fighting for your religious beliefs can be a form of jihad, the term itself refers to any sort of struggle to do good.
This explanation doesn’t even attempt to claim that jihad warfare is not jihad. It just posits that there are other forms of jihad as well. So what? If they don’t compel jihad warriors to stop killing Infidels, they are of no interest to Infidels.
5. Sharia Law is taking over the United States
I always roll my eyes at this one. Sharia law is the theory of Islamic law, derived from centuries old religious and historical texts, which outlines things such as how to settle finances after divorce, the legality of adoption, social etiquette, economics, and other spiritual topics. Almost every time I’ve heard the word Sharia Law on the news, it’s been fear mongering that’s had little to nothing to do with the actual body of laws. There’s no broad Islamic drive to push religious laws onto other political systems.
The Muslim Brotherhood “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” — “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America,” by Mohamed Akram, May 19, 1991.
6. All Muslims are Arabs
Couldn’t be further from the truth! Out of the 1.6 billion Muslims living worldwide, over 60% of them are from South and South East Asia, with Indonesia being the most populous Muslim country, followed by Pakistan. In the United States, the largest Muslim demographic is African-American followed by South Asian. Not all Arabs are Muslims either—many Arab countries have very large and historic Christian and Jewish populations.
This one is completely unimportant, and probably only included to reinforce the contention that only racist, ignorant yahoos care about jihad terror.
7. Muslim women are forced to cover up
Although Islamic teachings do require women to dress modestly, how a woman chooses to cover herself and to what degree is under her autonomy. The different ways Muslim women cover varies both religiously (from simple headscarves to full robes) and also culturally, with each region having it’s on take on modest clothing. Unfortunately, many patriarchal societies exploit this and force women to cover in order to systematically subjugate them.
How a woman chooses to cover herself and to what degree is under her autonomy? Really? Tell it to Aqsa Parvez, whose Muslim father choked her to death with her hijab after she refused to wear it; and to Amina Muse Ali, a Christian woman in Somalia whom Muslims murdered because she wasn’t wearing a hijab; and to the 40 women who were murdered in Iraq in 2007 for not wearing the hijab; and to Alya Al-Safar, whose Muslim cousin threatened to kill her and harm her family because she stopped wearing the hijab in Britain; and to Amira Osman Hamid, who faces whipping in Sudan for refusing to wear the hijab; and to the Egyptian girl, also named Amira, who committed suicide after being brutalized for her family for refusing to wear the hijab; and to the Muslim and non-Muslim teachers at the Islamic College of South Australia who were told that they had to wear the hijab or be fired; and to the women in Chechnya whom police shot with paintballs because they weren’t wearing hijab; and to the women also in Chechnya who were threatened by men with automatic rifles for not wearing hijab; and to the elementary school teachers in Tunisia who were threatened with death for not wearing hijab; and to the Syrian schoolgirls who were forbidden to go to school unless they wore hijab; and to the women in Gaza whom Hamas has forced to wear hijab; and to the women in Iran who protested against the regime by daring to take off their legally-required hijab; and to the women in London whom Muslim thugs threatened to murder if they didn’t wear hijab; and to the anonymous young Muslim woman who doffed her hijab outside her home and started living a double life in fear of her parents, and all the other women and girls who have been killed or threatened, or who live in fear for daring not to wear the hijab.
8. Muslims starve for an entire month every year
This one is more of a misunderstanding than a misconception but it always makes me laugh because I hear it every year. Ramadan is a month in which Muslims partake in various charitable and religious activities, most prominent of which is fasting from sunrise to sunset in order to learn humility and appreciate their blessings. But you won’t believe how many people I’ve met who actually think we don’t eat or drink the entire month—not true! Although we do fast for one month, abstaining from food and drink only takes place during daylight hours, which usually ends with a big feast at sunset and way too many people over eating and raiding the fridge at 3am.
“But you won’t believe how many people I’ve met who actually think we don’t eat or drink the entire month” — silliness. More ominous is that Siddiqi never mentions that Ramadan, because it is a time when Muslims renew their devotion to Allah, and because jihad is the supreme act of devotion to Allah, is a time of increased jihad terrorism. “The best acts that bring you closer to God are jihad, so hurry to it and make sure to carry out the invasion this holy month and be exposed to martyrdom in it,” so said Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani as Ramadan began this year.
9. Muslim Men are encouraged to practice polygamy
This misconception gets brought up a lot but a little historical context helps us better understand. Fourteen hundred years ago, during the rise of Islam, social structures did not provide women with the same assistance as they do today—women needed marriages not just romantically, but also as a means of protection, housing, employment, and tribalism. The law of allowing Muslim men to marry multiple wives was explicitly introduced so as to help widowed and divorced women retain social wellbeing. More importantly, Muslim men are discouraged from marrying more than one wife if they are unable to provide for them equally financially and emotionally. In many Muslim countries, and even Muslim communities here in the West, polygamy is looked down upon and considered an outdated tradition.
In reality, there are as many as 100,000 polygamous Muslim families in the U.S., in clear violation of U.S. law, and Islamic polygamy is not considered an “outdated tradition,” as it is sanctioned in the Qur’an (4:3).
10. Muhammad was the founder of Islam
Historians might consider Muhammad the one who introduced Islam, but Muslims believe Islam to be the same message revealed by Jesus, Moses, and all the other Biblical prophets. Additionally, Muslims do not pray to or worship Muhammad, if anything it is emphasized that he was human just like everyone else.
The same message revealed by Jesus, Moses, and all the other Biblical prophets. See? Nothing to be concerned about, unless you’re a baseball cap-wearing hijabi-harassing boor. So relax, Teen Vogue readers — only hatemongers care to resist Islamic jihad terror. Go back to Justin Bieber, and don’t worry about a thing.