Going Public: Debunking Misconceptions of the Islamic Faith and Culture

Sep 23, 2016


Dr. Tahsin Khalid is a professor in the department of Elementary, Early and Special Education at Southeast Missouri State University.

 Today on KRCU’s Going Public, we’re debunking the misconceptions of the Islamic faith with Dr. Tahsin Khalid, a professor in the department of Elementary, Early and Special Education at Southeast. We’ll hear about the Islamic faith, the cultural differences on how women are treated, and his personal experience with 9/11.

Grojean: So, Dr. Khalid, we’ll start off talking about the Muslim faith. There are a lot of misconceptions in your faith so we’ll also talk about that as well, and some of your own personal experiences. So go ahead and give us a crash course on the Muslim faith.

Khalid: Talking about faith, Muslim faith is number one: Believe in the God. So we all believe in God as one, that he’s the creator, cherisher, provider, of everything to us.God is one, was never born, he’ll never die. God has no relatives, no son, no daughter- that’s a major belief that we have. And that we believe in prophets that God sent, prophets to help human beings. The common prophets are prophet Noah, prophet Abraham, prophet Jesus, prophet Moses, prophet Jacob, prophet Isaac, Ishmael, and the last one is prophet Mohammed. So these are the different prophets. We also believe in books that several prophets brought with them, and the books include the Torah, Injeel, the Bible, the Quran, and there was a book for prophet Abraham, and some other prophets have books that we do not know, their names were not mentioned. And we believe in the day of judgment, the day of accountability. So if we do something good, we’ll be rewarded, and if we do something bad here, we’ll be punished. So it’s the day of accountability of the hereafter. We also believe in angels. There were several angels, I don't know exactly the number and they were never mentioned, but I would say thousands and thousands of angels. Some prominent angels are Gabriel, Michael. Let’s see, so these are common beliefs.

Grojean: You mentioned in your talk the other day that you don’t worship idols, and you can’t get creators and creations mixed up.

Khalid: That’s right.

Grojean: Could you kind of touch on that?

Khalid: You know, a creator is... God is the creator. And God is something that we do not know. We cannot see him, we cannot even perceive who God is. Male, female... these are our perceptions. God is way above all those things. He’s the greatest. Like people who worship stones, idols and those things we do not worship, we only worship the God. And we believe Mohammed was his prophet, so we do not worship Mohammed. We follow Mohammed’s teaching, but really, we do not worship him.

Grojean: I’d like to talk about the misconceptions a little bit, if you want to get into that.

Khalid: Okay, sure!

Grojean: So, let’s start with how there’s a misconception that killing innocents is a type of Jihad. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

Khalid: That’s a very good question. Jihad is an Arabic word, and it means a struggle, and a struggle to do good deeds. So, anything we do and try to avoid. I mean, we are human beings, and we tend to go towards bad more than we go towards good. So if we try to avoid bad deeds and try to do good, that’s Jihad. It’s like a personal level. And sometimes its hard, Our friends and some people: ‘okay, let’s do something nasty or mean...’ or peer pressure can make us do bad deeds. But if we try to be firm or avoid bad deeds, bad people, bad influence, peer pressure, then we try to do good deeds. And that’s Jihad. And protecting ourselves our family if somebody is attacking us and try to harm us, if we protect ourselves that’s also part of Jihad. So Jihad could be internal, could be external that if we see somebody doing something bad, on the radio we talk about it, and in the paper we write about it, it’s all Jihad, different types of Jihad. And again if somebody fights, you know that’s what the Quran says that if we go and fight for the cause of Allah, for the sake of Allah. So that people who are making problems in the world, you protect the world from them... this is also a type of Jihad. But, killing an innocent person or people? That’s not really Jihad. That’s just killing. And killing is not allowed in Islam. Killing like that, that somebody blows themselves up and kill themselves, and kill ten, fifteen, or twenty other people. That’s not Jihad. Or sometimes they just start shooting at people- that’s not Jihad. That’s against the spirit of Jihad. And it’s against Islam. Killing anybody without a reason, that’s against Islam, it’s prohibited in the Quran. And killing oneself like blowing themselves up, That’s also against Islamic teaching. Prophet Mohammed said, and I think I mentioned that in my presentation the other day, that they will never be going to the paradise if they kill themselves like that. And I mean the reason is that killing any innocent person... it’s a God-given life and we have no right to kill without a reason.

Grojean: There’s a misconception that the Quran supports violence.

Khalid: The Quran. Yeah, I have heard this, and I have heard from some people on the radio, talk shows, and I wonder if they have ever studied the Quran. So they do not know what is in the Quran. They never read it, they heard from somebody else and they just believed their word without thinking. So no, it’s definitely not true. The Quran says that you do not kill a person without any reason. And when they talk about the characteristic of belief and believers, and the Quran says that’s one of the characteristics: that they do not kill anybody without any reason, and the reason for example is if somebody committed a crime. And a court of law said ‘yes, they should be punished this way,’ so then of course they would be killed. Whatever the court decides. But there’s of course a decision. Right? So capital punishment. If I decide without a reason and say, ‘okay that person is bad, so I need to go and kill.” No, that’s against Islamic teaching, and that’s against what the Quran teaches us.

Grojean: So another misconception is that moderate Muslims are good and extreme Muslims are bad.


Khalid: The word ‘Islam’ means ‘peace.’ And so Muslims should be a peaceful person. So if a moderate is peaceful, then an extreme person should be extremely peaceful. They should not be violent. Otherwise if violence is against Islam, how can extremist Muslims be violent? They should be more towards peacefulness, not the violence. Violence goes the other direction- the wrong direction. So that’s another big misconception, that moderate Muslims are good and extreme Muslims. Extreme Muslims should be better than moderate Muslims in peacefulness, tolerance, justice, equality, all those characteristics, they should be better than moderates. There was a caliph, his name was Abu Bakr, and there is another guy here, his name is Abu Bakr too, the chief of AIS? You know, I call it anti-Islamic state, I don’t call it Islamic state. They don’t do anything which is Islamic, they do everything that is anti-Islamic. So I call them the anti-Islamic movement or state. So that person who was an extremist Muslim, he was very extremist, and his job was to take care of people. He was a caliph, and he was taking care of a huge area. But in the city where he lived, he used to walk around at night to see how people were doing. And if somebody needed help, he would go and help- and I mean, he would go and clean the house, and he would cook their food- whatever way he could. And the caliph after him was also like that, he was exactly the same way. The second caliph was Umar, and he was a very extremist Muslim. And his job was that if he found somebody who was hungry, he would go back and he would take some and just carry it to that person. That when somebody would show up and they would send it with them, he would say, ‘no, this is MY job. Somebody’s hungry, I need to give them food right now, I’m not waiting until the next morning.’ So I mean, that was their character. They were extremist and that’s what we have learned, that if you are extremist you should be more helpful to the other person. You can say that the ‘other person comes before myself.’That’s the extremist Muslim’s character. And they way we call ‘extremist Muslim’ that we hear from politicians and others, TV and radio, no. They are really not doing anything Islamic, they are doing anti-Islamic. So I don’t know why they call them extremist. They can call them ‘extremist anti-Muslim,’ yeah, that’s true. But not extremist Muslims.

Grojean: Are you disappointed in that? That people are referring to them as "Islamic State"?


Khalid: That’s right. If I talk about the Islamic state, will will not be talking about Islam. I’d be talking about politics. A lot of things happen in politics that have nothing to do with religion. So Islamic State and they way the started and what they are doing, there’s really nothing Islamic except their name. Beyond their name? There’s no Islam in Islamic State, it’s all anti-Islam.

Grojean: Another Misconception is that Muslims don’t treat women well.

Khalid: Yes that is what I have heard. And a long time I thought that way, when I came to the United States- you know I was not raised here, I was born and raised in Pakistan. In our country we have one group, educated people, they treat women the way they're supposed to be, the way islam teaches us. And, there are some people who are non-educated, in those areas women are not treated well. And if you talk about countries like Afghanistan where education is pretty low and they’re still in tribal life, the situation is different. But that has nothing to do with the religion. The religion teaches us that you treat your women the best ways possible. Prophet Mohammed said that the best among you is the one that treat their family the best possible way. And he said, ‘I’m the best among you,’ that he said about himself, the way he treated his family. And he said about women, about mothers: the woman has the highest in the hierarchy of the relationship. And then about wives, treat them the best way you can. About daughters, he said, those who have daughters and they raise them well, they will be with prophet Mohammad in the heavens. So if they don’t treat women well, it’s not islamic, it’s their culture. And that’s when i thought women were treated well here. I watch football, so every Sunday, I watch in the fall and early spring. So I was watching football and my wife- she doesn’t watch it, she was doing something- walked by and she said, ‘What are these women doing in these scantily-clad... who are they? Are they playing?’ So I said, ‘No, they are not playing, they are cheerleaders.’ So she said, ‘Why are they wearing so tiny clothes? All the men are wearing full-clothed and the women, why are they like this? And they’re scantily clad to make men happy, or what? That’s a disgrace for women!’ So she thought that was disgrace. And I said that’s probably true, and I don’t have any control! So I found it very entrusting how she perceived.

Grojean: And I met your wife, she’s a wonderful lady. And I remember she spoke out a little bit during your presentation, and she had said that ‘Women are equal to men’ in your faith.

Khalid: That’s true, that’s true. That’s how we think. Actually, we consider as partners. That we are partners, that we are complement to each other. So we work together. We’re protectors of each other. That’s how the Quran teaches us. And so the Quran does not say that you mistreat your women, and in fact sometimes I find that it’s a little bit like that mistreatment here. And the recent example is I was listening to NPR last week or two weeks ago when they were talking about FOX News and that a lot of women are leaving because of sexual misconduct. And on the Diane Rehm show, that’s what I was listening to, they were talking about what happened and one woman said, one of the panelists on the show said, ‘ women were not allowed to wear pants.’ So I thought that was very entrusting, and now you’re there forcing women to wear certain dress.

Grojean: Yeah, they made them wear skirts...


Khalid: Yes, and they’re very short so they can get higher ratings. And I said ‘That’s not something right.’ Again, that’s a mistreatment. I mean, using women and their bodies. You have women who come in and they are good intellectually or are good presenters and get viewers, then I will say ‘Yes, that is a good use.’ But showing their bodies is just like, you know, the scantily-clad cheerleaders. And these are similar circumstances. And that’s not a good treatment, that’s a mistreatment here. Now they’re blaming other people.

Grojean: And Muslim women dress very modestly?

Khalid: Yes.

Grojean: So it’s to bring respect to themselves?

Khalid: That’s right. And that’s what somebody said, ‘If you love us, don't love us because we look sexy, but because we have a brain.” And there was another incident in France. So, Muslim women, they were wearing the Burkini, and the police forced them, and fined them to take off their clothes. Why? If somebody’s wearing this teeny tiny thong, they say, ’oh yeah, that’s fine!’ But if somebody’s wearing more, that’s, ‘no no no, you cannot be modest here. You have to show your body.’ That’s forcing to do certain things, that’s.. I don’t think that’s the right treatment.  

Grojean: Are there any other misconceptions that you would like to mythbust for us?

Khalid: A common misconception that Muslims believe in Allah, and Christians believe in the God. And those Christians who live in the Middle-East who speak Arabic, they use the word ‘Allah’. That’s their language. So Allah is in Arabic, God is in English, El Dios or Dios is in Spanish, and I think Paguan is in Hindi. So they’re different names. But calling that Allah is different from the God, that is not correct.

Grojean: Has that happened in a lot of parts of your faith? People thinking things are different from what they believe by words that you use?

Khalid: Oh yes, definitely. And this is one thing. Since you mentioned that, I mean I have not had that experience personally but some other people, when they use the word, ‘Allah Akbar.’ Which is I mean, if you say that at the airport, I don’t think they’ll let you go on-board.So you can be in big trouble and some people had to leave the planes if they use the words. In fact, one incident happened a couple of weeks ago. And ‘Allahu Akbar’ just means ‘Glory to the god’ or ‘God is great’. That’s all it means, nothing else.

Grojean: So, to wrap things up, could you tell me about your experiences with 9/11? When the attack did happen, what was that experience like for you?

Khalid: That was a very entrusting experience. I wasn’t here at that time. We had a conference in Spain, from the college of education, maybe ten or twelve other faculty members. We were all in Madrid. And the conference was about ‘Culture of Peace,’ that is, if I remember correctly. And we had people from all over the world for the conference. So, September eleventh was the day I had my presentation. So after my presentation, I came out - I did not know what happened- and I was leaving in the afternoon. And I saw that people are sitting in a big auditorium, watching TV. So I just saw the door and I saw a plane. They were showing that a plane was hitting something in New York or something. So I said, ‘Oh they are just watching a movie. SO I walked out, and I had to buy a little alarm clock that day. So I went to downtown and bought a little alarm clock, and when I was leaving the shopkeeper said, ‘Are you from the United States?’ So I said, ‘Yeah that’s me! Yes.’ They said, ‘Did you know there was a terrorist attack?’ I said, ‘What?’ I was... shocked. And I said, ‘No that must be an accident.’ I didn’t believe it. And then I went to a nearby mall and saw on TV what happened. I mean, I don’t speak Spanish, so I didn’t understand most, but I could see what was happening. But because of that, I could not leave the country. I had to stay there for another week.

Grojean: Thank you for coming in today, Dr. Khalid.

Khalid: Thank you! I appreciate it that you gave me an opportunity to explain, and let me know if any other questions come up!

Grojean: Absolutely.