What Does Respecting Islam Mean?

The Quran. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Quran. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Some 52% of American Muslims believe that the United States do not believe Western societies respect Islamic societies, according to a Gallup poll from 2011. In the same poll 48% of Canadian Muslims and 38% of British Muslims also responded that they did not believe the West respects Islamic societies.

So what does that mean exactly? What would change the perception and make more Muslims feel “respected?”

To some Muslims, that respect means not treating Muslims as weak and defenseless. In the aftermath of the 2017 election, many well-meaning people reached out to the more visible sections of the Muslim community, asking what they could do to help. But a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Council on American Relations complained such overtures were founded on pity rather than on respect.

So what does real respect look like? Treating Muslims as individuals not as representatives of the entire religion is one aspect. Respecting one’s choice to participate in or not participate in religious practice is another. Remember Islam is easily as diverse as Christianity and that most Muslims practice forms of it that do not resemble the extreme puritanical version propagated by Saudi Arabia.

But above all, don’t treat all Muslims as either vicious barbarians one insult away from murdering us all in our beds, or as adorable clueless savages in need of our protection.

Respect means engaging with Muslim societies honestly and as equals.

 

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Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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