Addressing Misconceptions about Islam
By Fareena Alam, taken from lectures by Uztaz Zulkifli Hj. Ismail of PERGAS, Singapore
Analysing the Question: When addressing misconceptions, it is important to analyse the questions themselves because the answer can often be found in the question itself. In the Holy Quran, (2:56) it is said, Truth stands out clear from error." hence, we should patiently show where the absurdity lies and leave the rest to God. Islam is the truth and hence, can be rationalised and logically explained. Consequently there is no need to get upset or emotional. Just use your common sense and if you do not have the answer offhand, offer to find out and get back to your friend.
Attitude & Approach: It is important to go to the root of the misconception. Analyse how the misconception occured in the first place. When you know where the root flaw is, correct it and the truth will become clear.
2 steps to analysing misconcetions:
1. Check the "data" or "information" presented in terms of accuracy and logic of the argument. Beware of the following:
- "Strawman strategy": taking one aspect of Islam and beefing it up, in the process distorting the truth, to present it as the wholistic Islam. Just as a strawman is not the real man, this tactic doesn't portray the real Islam.
- Incorrect Data: e.g. Muslims worship the 'black box' or that there are many denominations among Muslims just like the Christians hence, Muslims are just as segregated (this is not true because the 'denominations' in Islam are not separated because of differences in principle but rather schools of thought whereas denominations in Christians differ with regard to basic principles)
- Correct Data taken out of context: e.g. Jewish ally tribes in Madina were thrown out after the war. When taken out of context, this gives a negative impression of Islam but instead of quoting only verse 191 of Sura Baqarah, one should quote verses 190 to 193 and then one will understand the real basis.
- Partial or incomplete data: This is relevant to the concept of jiziah.
- Application of questionable standards: e.g. the western standard of freedom or liberation of women or the liberalisation (e.g. Gay priests) of church as the benchmark for all other religions to conform to.
- Interpretation of data which is inconsistent: e.g. Since God addresses Himself as 'We' (royal we) and that Bimillah Hir-Rahman Nir-Rahim has three parts, Muslims should believe in the trinity. e.g. Since God says in the Quran that He hears and sees, which are human senses, He must have come down to earth as a human just as Jesus did.
Checking the argument, reasoning or logic
a = b, b = c and therefore, a = c
fallacy of the converse
3 + 5 = 8 and consquently the assumption that is there is an 8, there must be a 3 and a 5 (why not 4 and 4?) e.g. All Malays are Muslims just because majority of the Muslims around you are Malays.
fallacy of the congruent
b is congruent to B e.g. "You have Muhammad (pbuh) and we have Christ hence, Muhammad died for your sins." or that "Since you refrain from eating pork and Hindus refrain from eating beef because they worship the cow, you are worse because you worship the pig!"
fantastic leap (without considering the basis)
e.g. "In congregational prayer at the mosque, women occupy the space behind men and hence, in Islam women are considered inferior."