Will the real Islam please stand up?

How to Muslim for Dummies


I get a lot of different responses every time I talk about my religion, but a very common response is usually a glazed look while I’m talking followed by some variation of, “That’s nice, but what about ISIS?”

To many people, I have a watered-down, selective, “kid-friendly” version of Islam, and therefore my narrative is unreliable for what Islam really is. Religion, especially Islam, is set along a strange sort of spectrum, and Western media usually has a great time trying to decide how “Muslim” things really are. True to its definition, the two extreme points on which things are measured on this spectrum are very clear: Islam and humanity, with radical Islamic terrorist groups representing the pinnacle of all things Muslim™.

There’s a common misconception that oppressive totalitarian Middle Eastern countries, radical terrorist groups and even cousin-on-cousin marriages place higher up on the Islamic “spectrum.” These things that represent so much wrong with Islam according to the Western public eye are somehow considered more Islamic, which give Westerners more of a reason to hate Islam as a whole.

I can see why one would believe that; the archaic Middle Eastern theocracies do call themselves Muslim countries, after all. Islamist terrorist groups are known for doing everything in the name of jihad. There are “Muslims” who support these actions with quotes from the Quran itself (taken grossly out of context). And of course, marriage between cousins is strictly reserved only for Muslims, obviously.

To start, these “Muslim” countries, as everyone can agree, are doing some crazy shit. The leaders of these countries believe that they were given responsibility over all of their citizens, and they’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that their citizens follow the most archaic version of Islam possible to save themselves from hell, usually by force. Giving their citizens a choice means they can choose not to be Islam, which is too risky for the leader chances of getting into heaven.

Regardless of what Islamists and Western media thinks, choosing to listen to God is a much stronger statement of inner power and faith than being forced to, and that is the Islam that true Muslims are proud of.

Whenever I speak about Islam, I mean my Islam, which is, believe it or not, not the same as the Islam practiced by Islamic extremist groups, even if they go by the same name. Everyone’s relationship with God is different, but people somehow think that I also need to speak for all that falls under Islam.

Muslims get a lot of questions about the ugly interpretations of Islam in Middle Eastern countries and among terrorist groups, which are, to some extent, impossible to answer for. And when we don’t have an answer, that’s the cue for Western media to paint us all as people who support these interpretations.

A good portion of the decisions that separate us as Muslims are empowering to us because they are decisions made by us as individuals, which really proves our faith and what we stand for more than if we were to do the same things under force. The act of chopping off your hair isn’t necessarily liberating in itself, but the choice is, and some people feel most comfortable without hair. No one would say the same for someone who was forced to chop their hair off. The same could be said for the choice of wearing a hijab, which obviously no one would call liberating when speaking about women whose only choice is between covering head-to-toe or facing extreme persecution and abuse.

The “spectrum” of a person’s Islam should be measured by how much they choose to follow the Quran and the word of God (which starts off with being a human being, surprisingly). Anyone who shares a similar Islamic experience with me (and whoever has read the basic Surah Al-Kafirun) can agree that it’s better to live and let live than to kill anyone who doesn’t agree with you.

In short, people really should start to give Muslims the benefit of the doubt. There are a lot of questionable ideas and rumors out there on how to interpret Islam. But if you think about it, would a normal person like you be okay with these attacks or this violence towards women? Is it possible that nearly two billion people around the would all be brainwashed into thinking the same misguided, brutal thoughts?

Give us the benefit of the doubt that if your answer is no, then it’s not representative of Muslims. Islam really isn’t designed to screw anyone over or coerce Muslims into blindly loving persecution.

Muslims really do know how to think for ourselves. We know automatically that we’re nothing like those who take things too far. We shouldn’t even be measured on the same spectrum.

Subaita writes the Monday column on Muslim identity. Contact her at [email protected].

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  • John Doeman

    It’s fun to watch Abrahamic myth believers persecute each other rather than the sane and logical.

  • Purrelli

    I have a question for the author: why do you choose to be part of such a monstrous, wicked and upside-down backwards death cult? Why not find some other religion that values life more than death? You’re lucky here in America you can.

  • Purrelli

    There is no question in my mind that if you published this article as a resident in Saudi Arabia, you would be put to death. A true Muslim doesn’t get to pick and choose what parts of the Quran they want to follow. And where are all the “good Muslims” condemning the terrorist acts we see on a daily basis? They for the most part are quiet. If someone had hijacked Christianity to the extent these Muslim extremists have, you can bet there would be world -wide condemnation by the christian church.

  • Arafat

    There are two kinds of Jihad: terrorism, and slow penetration of Western institutions subverting Western laws and customs from within.
    We all know which terrorist Subaita is. She would be thrilled if America eventually became like Saudi Arabia a country where she could not leave her HUSBAND’s home without his accompaniment and without being forced to wear a black sack when allowed to leave.

  • Arafat

    One unanswered question is whether Islam is a religion of peace.
    First, the Arabic word Islam does not mean “peace” but an act
    of subjugation to God (Allah) and His will. Second, the basis and teaching of
    Islam is understood universally to consider non-Muslims as infidels. Third,
    infidels have to be wiped out. There is no gainsaying the word of Allah in the
    Koran, the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad and the shari’a. Thus,
    Muslims by birth or conversion, regardless of whether they are
    ultraconservative, moderates or secularists, are trapped in this vise-grip of
    enforcing the will of Allah on everyone, non-Muslim or Muslim, if they veer
    away from the straight and narrow.

  • FreedomFan

    The “real Islam” is Salafi or Wahhabi Islam. We know this because these are the ideas held by Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca, the holiest place in all of Islam. One of the five Pillars of Islam is the requirement for each Muslim to go on a “pilgrimmage” to Mecca.

    Similarly, the most popular website for authoritative Salafi beliefs are found at IslamQA.info, according to Wikipedia. This site promotes disturbing rules, such a killing apostates, homosexuals and adulterers. Don’t take my word for it; pick any topic. Here’s one requiring female genital mutilation of little girls:

    Further, these aren’t just obsolete rules, such as one might find in the Old Testament. Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries routinely enforce these rules. There were 157 beheadings just in 2015 alone, mostly for “crimes” which exist only under Islamic Sharia.

    This is the “real” Islam. It’s bloody. We see it every day. The “moderate” Muslims may deny this to infidels, as they are required to in the quran (taqiya is lying to further Islam). However, you will never hear any of them publicly demanding that the “radical” Muslims stop the mayhem and become civilized.

    There are no majority Muslim countries in which this author could choose to practice “her Islam”. This luxury is possible only in the West which actually believes there is “no compulsion in religion”– in the U.S. this is found in the very first amendment to our precious Constitution. Failure to follow real Islam in a majority Muslim country is a death sentence.

  • Mohammad Hassan

    After reading the 20 comments, I shall like to explain later. Understanding is required from both ends. Awareness is our common goal individually and collectively. This has happened because of global mistake(s) of “licking the toes” of those who provided “energy” (for our luxury/comfort) and putting the blame on the entire “faith” of 1.2 billion people with a broad brush and losing their help. Did we call what happened in Hebron “Jewish terrorism(t)”? Did we call IRA, “Catholic terrorism(t) “Did we call “Federal Bldg” blast “Christian terrorism(t)”? Did we ever call other attacks on co-humans elsewhere in Burma, India, J&K, Sri Lanka, by the faith of the rest of innocent faithful contributors to our GDP, GNP, PPP, CPI, and S&T, and that too @ a very high SS contribution and taxes by insulting their faith itself. If not, it is unfair hypocrisy. It is a co-dependent world. We can’t demand respect. We better command it by our deeds. We have to reciprocate, earn, deserve, respect others feelings. If I get/hear some response, with receptivity of my thinking, I shall try to help understanding openly, honestly. Until theb so long. May God make us/US safer/kinder/fairer.

    • Jorge Carolinos

      Did we call IRA, “Catholic terrorism(t)


      “Did we call “Federal Bldg” blast “Christian terrorism(t)”?

      Timothy Mcveigh was an agnostic, but sure, Christian terrorism, fine by me.

      Did we ever call other attacks on
      co-humans elsewhere in Burma, India, J&K, Sri Lanka, by the faith of
      the rest of innocent faithful contributors to our GDP, GNP, PPP, CPI,
      and S&T, and that too @ a very high SS contribution and taxes by
      insulting their faith itself.


      If not, it is unfair hypocrisy.


      True believers be they atheist communists or religionists, they share the same pathology.

      It is a
      co-dependent world. We can’t demand respect. We better command it by
      our deeds. We have to reciprocate, earn, deserve, respect others
      feelings. If I get/hear some response, with receptivity of my thinking,
      I shall try to help understanding openly, honestly. Until theb so
      long. May God make us/US safer/kinder/fairer.

      There is no god of any form, Joe Stalin, Saddam and the Ayatolla all share the same thinking pathology.

      • Mohammad Hassan

        Wait. If I survive, I shall answer, God willing, Thanks for asking.

  • Man with Axe

    I think I can understand the frustration of a moderate peaceful Muslim like the author having to field criticism of her religion on a constant basis, when she doesn’t believe the things that the critics are going on about, such as killing every infidel, or subjugating women, or killing apostates, or killing Jews, or installing Sharia, or killing blasphemers, and so on.

    But she needs to see that these are not peripheral issues in Islam. They are front and center in many Islamic countries. And it is not just, or even mainly, the political leaders who promote these abominations. It is the imams and the ayatollahs in so many mosques around the world. These precepts are taught in the madaris. It is the lived reality for hundreds of millions of people, whether they do so voluntarily or not. The women are subjugated. The apostates and blasphemers are killed. Adulterous women are stoned. And so on.

    From the point of view of daily life at UC Berkeley, consider the change in atmosphere for Jewish students as more and more Muslims populate the university. It has become literally unsafe, not mentally, but physically, for Jewish students.

    Cities in Europe have become unsafe for European women as the number of Muslim men has grown exponentially. The number of brutal gang rapes of German, Dutch, and Swedish women is reaching epidemic proportions. Talk about a real rape culture. Does anyone care? Do we want to import this barbaric behavior to the US?

    Meanwhile, the peaceful Muslims should feel free to go about their lives unmolested.

    • California Defender

      Well said. But how would an individual or, more importantly, the state determine who is a peaceful Muslim and who is not?

      Clearly European governments (and our own) are having little success in making this distinction and the result is fear, abuse, rape, restriction of freedoms, and the horrific deaths of innocent Europeans.

      But the bigger questions is: Do the non-violent moderate (or more accurately extreme liberal) Muslims provide a benefit to our Western society that outweighs the negatives of the rest?

  • Kanoni Wilder

    Wow, I love this and appreciate your bravery and abrupt honesty when’s it comes to your Muslim culture. Keep it up! I can’t wait until next Monday.

    • California Defender

      Do you think she is an accurate representation of the majority of Muslim culture?

      Or is what she presents simply her personal Westernized interpretation of Muslim culture that has been developed in the sterilized monochromatic bubble of the most liberal university in America?

  • Ilpalazzo

    What’s funny is muslims saying “isis doesn’t represent islam” only to then claim they’re the “true” representation, which is the inherent problem OF islam, since it was created by a man pretending to be god. Muslims need to realize that most of the west actually bases their judgement on the WRITTEN DOCTRINE OF ISLAM and its claims that they are decreed by God himself, while it simultaneously calls all nonmuslims liars with horrible verses expressing methods of torturing nonmuslims. Combine that with 1400 YEARS OF ISLAMIC INVADERS, and you’ll start to get a better idea instead of the cognitive dissonance Islam has caused you.

  • Captain Noypee

    Save yourself the trouble and just shop for another religion. There are lots of more benign religions out there. Try Buddhism. Its really nice. Hardly any violent teachings in there. Its adherents are happy and very progressive. :)

    • DarkStarCrashes

      There has been Buddhist violence, generally against Muslims. However it’s hard for any religion to have a clean record with that sort of thing because humans so easily are mobilized towards tribal violence.

      Buddhism is pretty clearly the best religion on Earth at the moment, and I’d be interested to hear any arguments to the contrary. It is the most compatible with science and empiricism, it is the most open to its own change and evolution as a tradition, and it provides the sharpest and most powerful tools for finding truth and developing human potentials.

      Other religions get mired in myth and metaphor (the most extreme cases being fundamentalist interpretations of the Abrahamic faiths), Buddhism takes you on an unceasing process of cutting through such obstructions.

      One of the best things about Buddhism is that it’s the system to destroy all systems, the one tradition that tells you not to attach to anything, even itself!

      • Man with Axe

        Take a look at the Baha’í Faith. Believes in the unity of science and religion, the equality of the races and the sexes, but is not as ethereal as Buddhism, and aims for a decent life in this world.

        • DarkStarCrashes

          I have researched Baha’i Faith, and it is pretty awesome. Interesting how it started as an offshoot of Islam, and how there was a John-the-baptist situation (where one guy predicts the arrival of the more important religious leader). I like its highly metaphorical understanding of religious meaning (as opposed to fundamentalism/literalism).

          My only real complaint about Baha’i is that it doesn’t seem to cut through illusion as deeply as Buddhism (this could be a feature of its greater worldly social functionality). I wouldn’t be surprised if Baha’i appears differently at the more esoteric/indescribable levels, but I really can’t be fully sympathetic to religions that involve a monotheistic, personal god. Buddhism knows that the concept of “god” is one of the most dangerous of all in terms of keeping the mind trapped in dualistic space.

          Sikhism is also very cool.

    • Jorge Carolinos

      Unitarianism, you don’t even have to believe in a god to be a Unitarian.


      Skeptic: What about the Unitarians?

      Gardner: I could be a Unitarian except the Unitarian
      church has turned out to be essentially a secular humanist church. Most
      Unitarian ministers are atheists. I have no desire to get up on Sunday
      to go hear a lecture on ethics, especially if the minister is not
      particularly bright.

  • Kevin Golding

    Whilst it is clear that there are many different levels of observance of the Islamic Faith, I think that the author of this article is very much at the extreme ‘moderate’ end of the scale. Her understanding and practice of her Faith would seem to be peaceful and tolerant and compatible with Western society, but the evidence shows that her ideas represent the minority of opinion within the Islamic world.

    • California Defender

      What she has done is a form of cultural appropriation. Taking the beliefs of one culture and modifying them to fit nicely (or in this case awkwardly) into your own.

      If one does try to fit her views under the Islamic tent, I would have said extreme liberal, but your “extreme moderate” delightfully displays the silliness of the effort.

      In truth, she should pick a different name for her newly invented religion. Berkeleyism? Berklam?

      • Jorge Carolinos

        “What she has done is a form of cultural appropriation.” I love it.

        Persian civilization is thousands of years old, it’s sad that it has devolved to Berkeleyism.

        • California Defender

          The cultures that existed prior to the Muslim Conquest of Persia in 651 are fascinating: The Sasanians, Parthians, Scythians, etc.

          Did you know the true origin of powerful Amazonian female warriors is not the Amazon, but Scythia? How far the descendants of those Scythian women have fallen since the conquest.

  • DarkStarCrashes

    I take issue with any notion of “real Islam.” I’ve seen this tactic before and I’m calling bullshit.

    For there to be such a thing as “real Islam,” there must be an eternal essence to Islam that is independent of how it evolves and is actually practiced by actual people in history.

    I imagine that many of these extremist clerics have studied the Qur’an a whole lot more than Ms. Rahman, so it is very bold for her to claim she has greater knowledge of Islam’s eternal “real” essence than they do. How would she know? Mystical insight? Her own Qur’anic readings?

    She says, “when I speak about Islam, I speak about my Islam.” It seems to me that she is saying that “real Islam” is what she thinks it is/WANTS it to be. Sounds like either spiritual arrogance (or ignorance) or a bait-and-switch move (pretending to be talking about the fundamental essence of Islam but then really only talking about her personal conception of Islam).

    Why should any of us care about her personal conception of Islam when we are looking at the global historical context? When people criticize Islam, they are not criticizing the Islam of some Cal student, they are criticizing the Islam that actually moves large numbers of people in the broader world. People are not concerned with what Islam “could be” according to a minority opinion, we are concerned with the actualities on the planet earth.

    If there’s an eternal essence to Islam that is utterly lost on most of the Islamic world, why should we even talk about it? If it doesn’t shine through or make itself known in a significant way, why even trust that it exists?

    Maybe there is no essence to “Islam,” just a myriad of interconnected socio-historical contingencies fanning out from the life of a man named Muhammad.

    • Ilpalazzo

      exactly. the whole new “MY Islam” tactic of taqqiya is getting really annoying. “What does it mean to YOU?” That’s not how reality works.

      • Arafat

        Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also an Islamist leader,
        has repeatedly rejected Western attempts to portray his country as an example
        of “moderate Islam.” He states that such a concept is “ugly and offensive; there
        is no moderate Islam. Islam is Islam.”

    • Jorge Carolinos

      The no true Scotsman fallacy.

      • DarkStarCrashes

        I hadn’t heard of that one, thank you for educating me. This “real Islam” piece is a perfect example of the fallacy.

    • Mohammad Hassan

      First of all, I thank all post-comment 20 readers for not getting angry at me. In one sentence, tentatively, but honestly, I was born and raised in India, where everything is worshiped from cow to rocks, so to say. Then I lived in the former USSR for 4 years. My final destination was my present home USA, since end 1966, beginning 1967. During one of the intro (before my talk) surprised me by saying one sentence, “Here is the speaker from a country where god can be “anything. Then he went to a place where God was “denied”, then he came for good to a place where God is accepted but ignored. Now, he will talk about God the Almighty” That is, what I still do, shall try here, too. May He help me to say in a way that I am understood. Amen!. For tonight’s share. I submit, “the present world crisis will continue unless and until we understand what is tie concept of the Unity of God in Islam. Even though all monotheistic faiths, viz Judaism, Christianity, and Islam call them separately monotheistic. But, historically, largest bloodshed has been under their so-called “leadership” For example, all the Crusades, World Wars, Holocausts, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq-Iran, Iraq alone under Bush 1 and Bush 2, whose presidency gave us the polarization that is being felt now globally. If the readers show interest, I shall continue my comment. Thank you for the opportunity.

      • DarkStarCrashes

        Thank you Mr. Hassan, I appreciate your bravery and willingness to engage.

        Here is my first question for you: do you believe that there is such a thing as “real Islam,” that is, a fundamental essence to Islam?

        • Mohammad Hassan

          Continue reading my comment/reply on Disqus, Muslim Mirror, especially after the RSS takeover. Every course requires some pre-requisites. Devote at least as much time as you would to a 3 credit grad-level course. God willing, we shall prevail.

          • Jorge Carolinos


    • Arafat

      There are two basic camps of Muslims:

      ~ the “jihadist”, who wants to hack
      our heads off.

      ~ the “moderate”, perfectly content
      with the jihadist hacking our heads off.

  • Jorge Carolinos

    The problem with religion is the founding texts, you can pick and choose your way through the anti science, historical non-sense, race based insanity and still be a moderate, but the founding texts remain for Ayatollas to take advantage of.

    A moderate theism is nice, we who do not partake are glad you are behaving, but your founding texts that you ignore or pick and choose your way through remain as nonsensical blasts from the stone age past.

    Archaic theocracy in Iran started in 1979 and is going strong and also attempting to export its crazy mixture of state and religion. Ataturk’s reforms are being turned back In Turkey. Ex Soviet states have become fundy states since the fall of the USSR. Indonesia and the Phillipines have huge Islamic fundy movements. China has Islamic fundy types going off in it’s provinces.

    Islam is turning the clock back all over Eurasia and Africa, I’m glad in America we have a handful moderates.

  • SecludedCompoundTTYS

    Then why do the majority of Muslim countries want Sharia Law enacted in an extreme way?!

    • California Defender

      Is there a non-extreme way to implement Sharia Law?

      I think we should redefine our understanding of it as not extreme, but just part of normal Islamic society as it’s not extreme to them. But also recognize it is entirely incompatible with Western society.

      A live and let live approach seems to be best.

      • Jorge Carolinos

        A single party state enforcing a religious, political and economic doctrine will always be extreme.

        • California Defender

          Yep, California included.

    • John Doeman

      why do the majority of Muslim countries want Sharia Law enacted

      why do jews and christians want judaic and christian law enacted in the countries they inhabit?