University survey reveals ignorance about basic Islam

Shirien Elmasraya

Everything you thought you knew about Islam and the Middle East is probably wrong.

Last week I distributed a non-scientific survey to my public relations and geography classes about the basics of Islam. The results were depressing to say the least.

You may think, “OK, what’s the big deal? Why is it important to learn about Islam?”

Learning about Islam is one of the most beneficial things a person can do today. Why? Because Islam is at the center of world affairs and media coverage. Understanding the religion will open the door for peace making and appreciation, and shutting it out of your knowledge (base) will only lead to an increase in turmoil and hate in the world.

The following were some of the questions I asked in my survey:

1. What percent of Muslims are Arabs?

85 percent of the 200 people surveyed said Arabs make up 50 percent or more of Muslims.

5 percent said Arabs are 21-49 percent.

10 percent said Arabs are 1-20 percent.

Correct Answer? Arabs make up only 18 percent of the total Muslim population. There are millions of Muslims everywhere in the world such as China, Southeast Asia, England and America.

2. Who do Muslims worship?

68 percent – Allah

30 percent – Mohammed

2 percent – Buddha

Correct Answer? Allah, the Arabic word for God. Many people who took the survey said we worship the “Muslim God, Allah.” But in fact, if you go to the Arab world, you would find that Jews and Christians also use the name Allah when praying.

3. What do Muslims think of Jesus?

84 percent – They believe he is a Prophet.

5 percent – He was just a man.

11 percent – Don’t know

Correct answer: He is a Prophet of God.

When some think of Islam, they automatically think we only revere the Prophet Muhammad. But that is farthest from the truth. We believe in, respect and honor all the prophets from Adam until Muhammad, and we make no distinction between any of them. Muslims do not accept the trinity. We believe that Jesus came with the same message as all the other prophets: You should worship God alone and do good deeds to enter paradise.

4. Do you feel any prejudice against Muslims?

7 percent – Yes

59 percent – No

34 percent – Sometimes

Prejudice is a term that carries a negative connotation. And when people see the word, they usually disassociate themselves from it. But, realistically a rather large percentage of people admitted to being prejudice all or some of the time. Those who commit these heinous crimes in the name of Islam have done a great wrong and are ignorant of their own religion.

5. How does Islam view women?

97 percent – Women are lower class/ subservient to men

3 percent- Other

Correct answer: Islam views women as pearls and as equals. That such a huge percentage held this view shocked me most out of all. Also, 98 percent said they think Muslim women are oppressed.

Learning about Islam is not one of those things in which it will take a collective effort among people in order to change the condition in the world. Every single person who learns about the religion and understands it will have some sort of effect on society, whether locally or beyond.

Shirien Elmasraya is a columnist for The Daily Reveille of Louisana State University. This column was made available through U-Wire.