The Muslim Blanket

The Muslim Blanket

Islam isn't violent -- people are.
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"Guns don't kill people; people kill people." Many of us have heard or used this expression to argue that people are indeed the violent aspect of gun use, not the actual gun.

What people don't realize is that the same argument can be used when it comes to generalizing Islam, Muslims, Arabs, and ISIS. Just because ISIS identifies with the religion of Islam doesn't mean that all Muslims or their religion are inherently violent.

So many Americans express their opinions all too frequently on the current hot topic of our nation's relationship with Islam. At the same time, they don't even bother looking into what Islam actually is and what the religion represents.

Here is a breakdown of the key terms used on the news.

Islam:

A monotheistic (one god) religion based on the teachings of the religious text called the Qur'an. This is believed to be the word of God (called Allah) and based on teachings of the prophet Muhammed. There are five pillars to Islam; testimony, prayer, fasting, almsgiving (food provided to the poor by those who can afford it), and pilgrimage.

Words you may have heard associated with Islam are Shia, the largest denomination, and Sunni, the second largest. These are simply denominations and have fundamental differences and history of bad blood, but are both a part of Islam.

Muslim:

An adherent, or follower, of Islam. This is the Christian of Christianity -- it's as simple as that. Referring to countries like Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan as "muslim countries" is politically incorrect-- the country isn't Muslim; the people are Muslims. The country isn't even Islam -- it's a country where the majority of the people practice Islam. Calling those countries Muslim is like calling America a Christian country.

ISIS:

This stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Yes, it's a terrorist group. Yes, it has the word Islam in it. This is perhaps the best example of the generalization made by Americans -- practicing the religion of Islam doesn't make you a supporter or an adherent of ISIS. ISIS claimed itself as a caliphate, which means having control over Muslims across the world, as in political, religious, and military control. Many governments have rejected this however; ISIS as a caliph isn't legitimate, because the majority of their support stems from fear and fear alone.

By no means are Islam and ISIS completely unrelated, but it's unfair to associate someone with ISIS because they're Muslim. That's like associating someone with Westboro Baptist Church or the KKK because they're Christian and both of those groups say they're Christian. These are generalizations -- ugly ones.

There are such things as extremist Islamic groups, just as there are such things as extremist Christian groups. They take different forms, of course, but blanketing all Muslims under the terrorist category is inaccurate and ignorant.

Many think Islam is a violent religion because of the associations made by terrorist groups and the idea of women in Islam being oppressed and treated violently.

Islam is automatically generalized as a religion that practices female genital mutilation and other oppressive rules to women like Sharia Law, which extends to a wide range of punishments for things like theft and a variety of rules concerning women and their rights. For example, women get just about half of everything a man does under Sharia Law, such as inheriting half of what a man would inherit. It also says that a woman cannot testify against her rapist if she is raped. This doesn't extend to all Muslims, but in extremist Muslim groups, like in Saudi Arabia, it is practiced without mercy.

There are so many countries that interpret Sharia Law differently however. It's unfair to say that every Muslim endorses the idea of Sharia Law-- though it's practiced as a legal system in some extreme Islamic groups. The support of Sharia Law, including genital mutilation, doesn't even necessarily mean Islam is a violent religion, at that point, genital mutilation becomes a legal problem within that country, many Muslims don't even practice that.

Sharia Law is archaic and should be condemned, but generalizing every Muslim as a supporter of Sharia is yet another inaccurate mistake many make about the religion of Islam. Nobody should support such a legal system but the fact of the matter is that some people of Islam do, still giving us no reason to castigate an entire religion because a portion of it's followers interpret Sharia strictly and literally.

Terrorism and antiquated ideas like Sharia Law shouldn't by any means be seen as acceptable, but there is no reason we should be associating all Muslims with either of these ideas.

These generalizations lead us to the Syrian refugee crisis and how 31 states have rejected opening up to relocated refugees. The November 13 Paris attacks were claimed by ISIS , and one attacker was carrying a Syrian passport, scaring Americans into shutting their doors for resettlement of refugees.

According to ABC News, "More than 7 million Syrians have been displaced by war, and by the end of September the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had referred 18,000 cases to the United States for resettlement." It will likely be difficult to find somewhere for these refugees to go without half of our states' support.

Islamaphobia and the misconstrued picture of Islam that millions of Americans have has gotten out of control. So many refuse to look past what major news media outlets say and research it for themselves.

In a recent interview in the below video with Professor Reza Aslan, what was expected to be an agreement with the program's predecessor Bill Maher, on CNN is a perfect example of the media simply seeking a soundbite that agrees with their political agenda. Aslan does a fantastic job of not letting an anchor push him around, and pointing out their ignorant and uneducated questions.

Maher said: "vast numbers of Muslims around the world believe that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea, or drawing a cartoon, or writing a book, or eloping with the wrong person."

Watch Aslan's applause-worthy response to the anchors here:


Of course, there are traditional portions of Islam we may not all agree with and see as culturally justifiable, but that doesn't mean the entire nation of Islam promotes violent behavior. Aslan said it best:

"This is the problem. These conversations that we’re having aren’t really being had in any kind of legitimate way. We’re not talking about women in the Muslim world, we’re using two or three examples to justify a generalization. That’s actually the definition of bigotry."

He continues: "Islam doesn't promote violence or peace. Islam is just a religion and like every religion in the world it depends on what you bring to it. If you're a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is gonna be violent. There are marauding Buddhist monks in Myanmar slaughtering women and children. Does Buddhism promote violence? Of course not. People are violent or peaceful and that depends on their politics, their social world, the ways that they see their communities."

Here's one of the same anchors featured in a perfectly captured tweet:

Cover Image Credit: http://www.ihhakademi.com/islamophobia-media-and-the-echo-chamber-effect/

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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A Few Birthday Thoughts

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

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So, it is looking like I am about to leave my teenage years behind. I think that I want to reflect back on this time in my life and think about what I want to keep with me in my twenties and maybe some things I can let go. My teenage years have been full of love from my family and friends; hard work to make good grades in school and creating art. I developed several great friendships that I have held on to across the miles even though I went to college 14 hours away from our previous home. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made in college as well.

It seems like friends you make in your childhood and younger years can really stand the test of time. Maybe it is because when you became friends you were truly who you were. Everyone was genuine and didn't put up walls to protect themselves. You got to know someone on a deeper more personal level more quickly than if you had met later in life. I also think we laughed even more as children and that always creates good memories to look back on. So I think in my twenties I will try to hang on to the "childish" way of making friends. I will try to show my true self and will accept them for who they are, and we will laugh....a lot.

I think a good thing to let go of is always trying to make dead-end relationships work. When we were children on the playground and we tried to play a game together or jump rope and it just wasn't working, we would run off and find someone else. It was easy. It was just natural. Now sometimes I find myself trying to stay in a relationship by being overly nice, giving gifts, trying to find what pushes the persons "good" buttons. I might spend so much time trying to figure this person out that I leave out more solid relationships that are worth my time. So in my twenties, I will try to be more realistic about who to spend my time on. Some people are just never going to stand the test of time. I can continue to be cordial but won't let them rule my time and thought life.

As children, we loved our parents and siblings and would show love to them in a myriad of ways. Maybe it was hugs, pictures on the fridge, good night kisses, playing games, or just quality time spent together as a family. Starting my twenties, I am mature enough to realize the value of these people in my life. Thankfully, I have always known this. I was never the type that was embarrassed if someone saw me walking with my Mom or Dad or being dropped off in the Mom Van somewhere. I always knew these people loved me more than anyone else I was about to meet. But in my twenties, I plan to keep up with my family even when I am eight hours away from them. We are never too old to need the love of family.

As weird as it is to say goodbye to my teenage years, it's honestly helped me to soak in the precious moments of everyday life and treasure them even more. Every year when birthdays come around, it always serves as a reminder how quickly the days, months, and years fly by. I think that has been one difficult part of this birthday season. It's hard to say goodbye to the past, without a clear map of the future. But, I must remind myself that this is why growing up is a beautiful thing- as we live life and experience new things, we are better prepared for what the future may hold. Everything that I have experienced in my 20 years has served an important purpose- to make me into the person I am supposed to become. Yes, life is always changing and so am I... and change can be hard. Very hard. But one thing to remember is God is always constant. He will never change. No matter what number is on your birthday cake, He is always there...the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Rock that we will always be able to cling to. Isn't that a wonderful thought? Even if we don't know what's in His plans for us in the coming year, it's important to make Him a part of our plans. Rather than worry about change, let's embrace it all- the good and the bad- and look to the Lord to see how He will guide and shape us.

Teenage years- the time has come. I must say goodbye to you now. But, you will never be forgotten. I will hold your memories in my heart forever. Twenties- I am excited for all that awaits me.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

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