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Islam: Field Study Research

Karen Edmonds-Leach

Professor Jonathan Pedrone

REL212: World Religions-Summer

September 4, 2011

Islam: Field Study Research

After interviewing a member of the Islamic faith, I came to the realization that there are very many misconceptions about the religion of Islam and that these misconceptions are very hurtful, disrespectful, and inhumane. In this paper, I will first discuss several misconceptions that I had about the Islamic faith. I will then analyze how my prior understanding about the religion was altered through interviewing a member of the Islamic faith. Next, I will discuss my beliefs on misconceptions about other people’s religion being common or not. Lastly, I will recommend steps that can be taken to minimize misconceptions people have about religions that are not their own.

I had many misconceptions about Islam before speaking with a member of the religion. The first was that Islam oppresses women. When I thought about women in Islam, I thought of the image of a woman wearing a veil, and other heavy, dark clothing, where no skin would be visible, even in the hot summer months. I thought about how women were forced to stay home, and were not allowed to drive vehicles. I also believed that the Muslim’s God, Allah, was not the same as the God in Christianity, and was a false god. I believed that Muslims worshipped Muhammad, and that Muhammad and Allah were the same thing. I did not think that Muslims believed in Jesus Christ. I also thought that Muslim men all married multiple wives. I thought that polygamy was something that was widely practiced in Islam, and was somewhat of a requirement. For those men who married one wife, I believed that they were merely “Americanized”. Another misconception I had was that all Muslims were Arabs. Not only did I think they were all Arabs, but I thought that being a Muslim and an Arab was the same thing. Lastly, just as the cross is something like a symbol of Christianity, I believed that the crescent and the star was the symbol of Islam. I had all of these misconceptions about Islam, as many other people who practice religions outside of Islam do, but speaking with a Muslim quickly changed my mind about these harsh misconceptions. Each one of my misconceptions about Islam count toward my overall understanding of the religion. My prior understanding was completely altered through my encounter with the Muslim woman I interviewed. I believed it would be a great idea to talk to a woman about how women are suppressed in Islam. I interviewed a friend of mine, named Kiran Masood. She was born and raised in the Islam religion, and continues to practice it today. She informed me that this is not necessarily the case. She stated that some Muslim countries do have laws that oppress women, but this practice does not come from Islam itself. Masood stated, “countries that have laws against women created these laws themselves. They may say that their basis is from the Qu’ran, but the Qu’ran does not suggest any oppression women” (Masood). Though this is true, there are some social constructions in Islam, where women and men are given different roles and equity. This is something that all religions accept, and is not a surprise to me in Islam. In addition, another common misconception is that a woman can be forced to marry against her will, and this is not the case at all. Masood informed me that “no one can force a Muslim girl to marry someone she does not want to marry; her parents may suggest she marry a suitable man, but by no means is this girl forced to marry someone that she may not want to marry” (Masood). I was also informed that divorce is not common, and it is used as a last resort. Masood also quickly refuted my second misconception, that Allah is a different God. “Allah is not a different God; Allah is simply the Arabic word for God”...
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