My perception of the Islam religion being composed of Arabs alone was completely altered. According to the Imam, Islam is a global religion with more than a quarter of the world population being adapt followers. The Imam also stated that Arabs make up 15% of Islam followers. He further elaborated that Islam is the second largest religious group and the fastest growing religion globally. The Imam also altered my perception of the Muslim attire by indicating that not all Muslims wear turbans or veils. He argued that most Arab Muslims wear turbans because of their regional practices, while most Muslims especially those living in cosmopolitan areas do not adapt the assumed Islam mode of dressing.
My view of the Islam religion and its perception of Jesus were also altered. This is because the Imam explained to me that Muslims do believe that Jesus was a prophet and that most of their mosques have paintings of Jesus teaching his followers. Therefore, I was convinced that they do believe that Jesus exists but, I was not convinced that Muslims believe that Jesus is the link between mankind and God. This is because Islam does not place a lot of emphasis on the definition of Jesus as the savior of mankind.
The Imam also assured me that Muslims have respect for other religions and they tolerate non-believers. To illustrate this, the Imam argued that the Quran calls for the respect of one’s beliefs. He further reported that there are numerous examples in the Quran where Muslims tolerated other faiths. To demonstrate this, he narrated a story about Caliph Umar who was a Muslim leader in Jerusalem between 634 and 644 AD. The Imam reported that Umar allowed Jerusalem inhabitants to practice their own religion. He did this by ensuring their safety and the safety of their places of worship.
The Imam also convinced me that Muslim martyrs do not adore destruction. The Imam explained that Martyrs in the Islam religion are composed of individuals who deprive themselves for the good of others. He gave examples of people who are considered martyrs in the Muslim world. They include women who die when giving birth, individuals who die while in their quest to spread the Islam religion among others. He also informed me that Muslim girls are not forced into marriage. He elaborated on the fact that not all Muslims practice polygamy. However, he stated that polygamy is allowed in the Quran and Muslim women are also allowed to file for divorce.
Misconceptions about other people’s religion are very common. Ashton (2000) argues that religious education is imperative because most religious misconceptions are based on religion ignorance. Ashton (2000) argues that most people are not open to learning the practices of other religions different than theirs. This is because most of them are eluded by the assumption that in the process of learning a foreign religion, they might end up being converts. Ashton (2000) asserts that it is imperative to give people the opportunity “to embark on a great voyage of discovery into the human search for understanding of the possible nature of life itself” (p.1). This is because she believes religious education is vital in the fight against religion misconception.
Haught (1990) asserts that religion is a very sensitive topic because followers of a specific religion practice and maintain religious teachings. Thus, most people are more likely to link human behavior with religious practices rather than personal attributes hence, leading to religion misconceptions. Ashton (2000) also argues that intolerance of foreign religions and lack of respect for the same develops into misconceptions about the religion in question.
I also think that most people are skeptical about religious practices that they are not familiar with. As a result, they end up stereotyping individuals based on their religious affiliations. This is supported by Khan (2003) who affirms that most people are misjudged because of stereotyping and the assumption that they all act in accordance to their religion’s teachings. Akhtar (2011) emphasizes that extremists exist in all societies and that religion should not be the basis for judging one’s conduct hence avoiding religion misconceptions.
To curb religion misconceptions, I recommend that people should take time to learn the belief and practices of other religions. This will be vital because it will do away with condemnation of religions on the basis of stereotyping. Further, religious education will go a long way in creating awareness about the religion understudy. I also recommend that people should strive to portray respect for religions other than theirs. This is because, Akhtar (2011) argues that we should not “seek to impose” our religious practices on to others and neither should we condemn a religion because of the actions of a few but, we should always try to respect each other’s religion (p.144).