Are Muslims finding it harder to fit in?

Izzud deen Redzuan
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By Izzud Deen Redzuan

It was a lovely evening at Starbucks café with friends.  We ordered Frappuccino and cakes while listening to the latest hit songs recommended by Spotify. It was a perfect day for hangout when everyone is on semester break.

Then, a friend of mine, Julian, who is studying in New Zealand, started to ask a question which later turned out to be an intellectual discourse session instead of just laughing at each other’s silly stories and gossiping about our lecturers.

His question was, “Why do Muslims find it harder to fit in?”

Well, I’d love to give him a full list of reasons, instead I gave him examples of the recent events involving Muslim community throughout the world rather than talking too much about history.

ISIS is not one of us

Yet, there is a continued portrayal of ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) on Muslims. People should know what ISIS  is doing is not Islamic and it is against the teachings of Islam. By definition, the word Islam means peace and harmony, and what they are doing right now is clearly not a reflection of Islam.

Ironically, no one wants to see ISIS defeated more than the Muslims. Their emergence has led Muslims across the world to undergo discrimination and hatred caused by crimes committed by those in some society. For example, the case of the 2015 Chapel Hill shooting in France involving three Muslims who were linked to the act of supporting the ISIS cause.

We felt embarrassed to think that others around us might assume that because we are Muslims, we must have some kind of special link with ISIS, which we are not. They should not make a general statement to that effect of associating Muslims with such label.

At the end of it, Muslims fit in perfectly in predominantly Muslim countries, which they are aware of the current situation and need to take a serious action against ISIS propaganda, but it’s unlucky to those who are residing in western countries. Their struggle is real!

Negative Representation in the Western Media

In 2015, I presented a study on ‘The portrayal of Muslims and Islam by Reuters”. It was based on my observation of news carried by Reuters within 30 days and I noticed there were 510 news reports or articles about Islam altogether carried by the news agency. Which means, on the average, Reuters had released about 17 news reports on Islam per day.

The study revealed that 90% of the reports gave a negative representation of Islam and the Muslims, which is really bad, considering that news reports by Reuters got published not only in the local media but also worldwide.

So, why do Muslims find it harder to fit in? The repetition of words such as ‘Islamic jihadist’, ‘terrorist’ and ‘suicide bomber’ have been embedded in the mind of the larger society, which have made Muslims harder to fit in although they are just like other normal human beings seeking for job, helping their parents, and trying to have a good life with their own family.

Nevertheless, this is just based on reports by Reuters alone. We have not assessed reports by other international wire services and their portrayal of Islam.

Threat to the Western civilisation

It is unpleasant to hear Muslims being described as ‘problematic’ but that seems to be what we read or hear often in the media. Among common topic of debates is human rights between conservatives and liberalists, either between non-Muslims and Muslims, or among Muslims.

Liberalists are against conservative Islam saying that it’s not right to force women to cover their bodies, that it’s not permissible to harass and hurt homosexuals, and it’s not allowed for Muslims to resort to violence if things don’t go their way.

Muslims, on the other hand, are struggling among themselves. There are continued bombings in Syria that led to a large number of displaced people leaving for European countries, then there is the Israel-Palestine conflicts, and violence against Rohingya in Myanmar that saw the killing of hundreds of thousands of them.

The effort to harmonise the liberalist’s argument seem rather shallow and hardly taken seriously by the media. Muslims need a strong media channel to correct the misrepresentation of Islam and the Muslims by the western media.

To say that Muslims are rising to threaten the west is clearly wrong. The world population is made up of about 23% Muslims, of which 62% are residing in Southeast Asia, they are not even rising.

Perhaps, it’s due to their ignorance about Islam. I’ve met people who have wrongly interpreted the Quran, based on their understanding that Quran is just literally going against everything Western.

That is a wrong interpretation. The Quran calls for commanding good and forbidding evil, while we are constantly seeking for Allah’s pleasure.

But there are some decent ones out there

As the saying goes which indicates non-Muslims also want to be friends with fellow Muslims, but they are struggling too. This is because there are some Muslims who are having bad attitude and have showed negative inclination towards others.

I have met Muslims who declare others (non-Muslims) as kafir  and that they will go to hell and they themselves are so certain of going to heaven. This is happening every day as reported in the social media, which makes it harder for Muslims to fit in.

I am often reminded by my lecturer, “If becoming ‘religious’ has made you judgemental, rude, and harsh, you need to check if you are worshipping God or simply your ego”.  ***

Photo courtesy of Imgur

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