Report on Religious Field Research
As I reflected on this paper, I felt it was important to explore a religious outfit that has generated a lot of controversy in its faith and teachings. Therefore, I settled on the Islamic religion because I had several reservations concerning their faith. Many people hold the view that Islam is a terrorist religion that does not entertain tolerance. Moreover, Islam is perceived as an oppressive religion, especially to the women. This paper will highlight the misconceptions that I had concerning Islam. It will also explain how these misconceptions were altered. In addition, I will explore the best way to minimize such misconceptions.
Misconceptions on Islam
I had the chance to learn about the Muslim religion in the recent past. Being from a Christian background, I had various misplaced ideas about other religions, especially Islam. Fundamentalism is one area that I considered a weird idea as espoused by the Muslim community. Fundamentalism and extremism in Islam has had a bad image in my mind over the years. This idea is not misplaced because fundamentalism has also received negative publicity especially from the Western media. The problem has been perpetuated by a section of the Muslims who propagate holy war or Jihad in enforcing its religious views. The very mention of the word makes people shiver. This is because it seems to connect with terror activities. Therefore, my first misconception was that Islam is an outfit for terrorists.
Another misconception concerning Islam is that it is fatalistic. Muslims utter; “praise be to God” even when a disaster occurs (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2011). It would seem that Muslims love to see people suffering. This is also connected to my first misconception because terror groups seem to rejoice when they have killed their enemies. However, such utterances are based on their presumption that God knows everything and allows good and bad for his glory. This is something that most people might not agree with in any way. Although God allows good and bad, a fatalistic approach is undesirable when people are faced with a disaster. Moreover, Muslims do not worship the same God as the Christians. Muslims have faith in one God called Allah. In addition, they believe Mohamed was His true prophet. Muslims do not accept the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as espoused by Christians. Muslims reject the idea of God’s incarnation. Incarnation is a central doctrine in Christianity. These differences show that Allah is different from the Christian God.
Another misconception was that Islam was for the Arabs only. Their holy book is called the Quran, which is the equivalent of the Christian Bible. However, their holy book is written in Arabic, which is also used in their worship. Every Imam or Sheik must have a masterly of the language. Since language is critical in any discourse, I felt that having just one language for the Quran was discriminatory and made the religion a preserve for a certain group of individuals. There are Muslims from across the world. However, the Arabic is mandatory to all. Indeed, I kept wondering if there was something fishy in using just one language. For instance, the Bible is translated in many languages. Comparatively, it is questionable why Islam should have only one language, which reinforced my misconception.
The other misconception that I had concerning Muslims was their treatment of women. I always believed that women in the Muslim world were treated unfairly compared to men. In addition, there is a sternness, which is applied to women. I perceived that Muslims were unnecessarily unfair to their women in the name of religion. The Muslim community has a dress code for their women, which must be adhered to at all times. Moreover, women supposed to obey their husbands without much questioning. They are expected to play a submissive role to men and have little space in making decisions.
How the Misconceptions were altered
My misconceptions concerning Islam were altered after receiving some insights, which I considered quite valuable. I had the opportunity to visit a local Sheik in his office to discuss the faith and teachings of Islam. As highlighted above, I considered Islam as a religion for the terrorists. By listening to the Sheik, I understood that Muslims do not preach terrorism. Indeed, their teachings do not support actions that harm others. In reality, only a few misguided groups of individuals use holy war to instill fear. Indeed, Islam preaches love for all and is a peaceful religion (Spencer, 2005). My idea of a terrorist religion was thus quashed.
Secondly, Islam is not a fatalistic religious group. Muslims are trained to thank God in everything. Whether something good or bad happens, Muslims should give glory to God (Ahmad, 2011). They believe that God is the creator of the universe and everything in the world. Therefore, since God loves humanity, sometimes He allows evil to befall His creation. It is Gods’ desire to see people walking in His will. To achieve this, God allows something bad so that people will learn to rely on God or to repent and walk in His ways. Therefore, the religion is not fatalistic as I had initially thought. Indeed, the Christian faith teaches that people should be grateful in everything. Such exposition proved quite insightful in our discourse. Besides, the treatment of women in Islam and Christianity do not have much difference. The only difference occurs because Christianity has many sects, which hold various interpretations of the Bible.
Moreover, just like Christians, Muslims believe in one God, who created the world and everything in the world and in heaven. However, there are varied points of difference concerning their version of God and Christians. In Islam, the doctrine of the Trinity is rejected. In addition, they do not accept the doctrine of incarnation. However, there is consensus that God is one and is worthy to be praised. In addition, Islam had its origin in the Arab world. Only a small fraction of Muslims consists of Arabs. Therefore, the religion is not for Arabs as they are a minority. Like Christianity, Islam has spread their religion across the world (Ahmad, 2011).
Misconceptions are Common
From my analysis, it is true that misconceptions are common concerning all religions. The reason is that people consider their religion to be the most vibrant and true religion. Over the years, people have grown to value whatever they have received from their parents or elders. Indeed, it is difficult to change the misconceptions that people have concerning their religions since knowledge is passed from one generation to the other. For instance, Christians opine that theirs is the true religion. They base their argument on the words of Jesus who said he was the way and the truth. With this background, Christians all over the world hold their faith as the truth, thus shunning other religions.
On the other hand, Muslims also consider their religion to be the correct one. According to them, Allah is the true God and Mohammed is His prophet (Sawyer, 2007). These beliefs and arguments are opposed to each other. Although there are situations where some people change their allegiance from one religion to the other, such cases are rare. Overall, people have their beliefs ingrained in their blood, and it is virtually impossible to convince them otherwise. Indeed, the passing of information and knowledge from one generation to the other has played a significant role in this indoctrination. Accordingly, it is possible to have misconception concerning other religions.
As highlighted above, people have many misconceptions concerning other religions. This has been explained in the above discussion. It is critical to have the right information if these misconceptions are to be changed. The best way to do this is by providing basic education (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2011) to all people and especially the school-going children. It is this age that knowledge concerning all religions should be shared with them so that they will grow respecting and appreciating other religions. Without such an approach, it would not be easy to change the opinions of many people.
Moral relativists have achieved some success on this aspect since they preach uniformity of all religions. They argue that no religion is superior to the others. Truth, as advanced by each faith is relative. No group should brag that it has the reserve for knowledge or truth. Indeed, such sentiments can only fuel animosity among the many religious groups. Indeed, if each group respected the values and opinions of others, misconceptions would have little place in the minds of people. Therefore, it is imperative people be accommodative as much as possible (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2011). This will minimize misconceptions that people have concerning other religions.
It is possible to have various misguided ideas concerning other religions. As discussed above, I had many faulty thoughts on Islam. However, after seeking information from a well-informed source, my ideas were dramatically altered. Indeed, misconceptions are inevitable because of how people are taught especially during early stages of development. Therefore, it is paramount that religions be treated equally. This can only be possible if people get the right information.
Ahmad, S. (2011). Islam in Perspective. London: AuthorHouse.
Samovar, A. L., Porter, E. R. & McDaniel, R. E. (2011). Intercultural communication: a reader. New York: Cengage Learning.
Sawyer, F. M. (2007). Married to Islam: a true story. New York: iUniverse.
Spencer, R. (2005). The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing Inc.