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Islam and the World

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Introduction

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Many people hold different misconceptions about Islam. They think that Muslims practice their religion the same way in different countries around the world. However, this is not the case. Muslims around the world maintain traditional teachings of Islam, but they have different cultural practices. Muslims around the world maintain their language, cuisine, and mode of dressing. These practices form a major part of their religion. Muslims use the Arabic language, which is the language of the Quran, and they have adhere this wherever they practice their religion. They also follow a modest form of dressing, with many of them encouraging women to cover their heads. It is against the Islamic law to consume alcohol and pork, and every Muslim has to observe this requirement. Many Muslims pursue their culture, and because of this, a person is likely to encounter some significant differences between people practicing Islam in America and in Asia.

Research on the teachings of Islam and how they are interpreted and practiced in different countries and cultures

US

The Muslim community in the US is diverse in many forms including race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin. Muslims in the region embrace the different Islamic sects including Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi. In addition, some Muslims belong to the Nation of Islam, an Islamic group distinct in America, which is not recognized in other Islamic countries or in other groups practicing Islam (Feener, 2004, p. 57). The practice of Islam in the US differs among the immigrants and the natives. These differences are especially significant among African American Muslims and the immigrants. These divergences are clear in the way that many native Muslims have found ways to integrate their religion and their culture. Many native African American Muslims encourage interaction of both male and female, unlike many immigrant Muslims who encourage segregation. Many native Muslims in America also encourage interactions with other faiths, as they seek ways that people from different faiths can live together peacefully.

Immigrant Muslims do not consider this a pure form of Islam, and they have difficulties accepting it. They see it as an opposition to Islamic values and traditions (Brettell, 2007, p. 64). Because of this differences there tends to be very conservative Muslims in America, as well as Muslims that are more liberal. The different groups of Muslims interpret the Quran and other religious books in their individual ways. Islam in the US faces negative stereotypes, especially after the terrorist attacks in the country and the images portrayed by the media. This image has influenced many people’s perception of the religion.

Great Britain

Islam is a growing religion in Great Britain. There are many practicing Muslims in the country, some of them are immigrants, and others are converts. Many of the Muslims are migrants from south Asian countries, especially Pakistan and Bangladesh. Some Muslims have complained of Islamophobia in the larger part of Great Britain, most of which seems to have been propagated by media reports. However, Muslims in Great Britain are learning to coexist with other faiths, even as they practice their religion. For instance, Muslims in London hold discussions with people of other faiths. In addition, they have set a day when they invite non-Muslims to enter mosques, something that does not happen in normal Islamic practices (Kabir, 2010, p. 56). This has enhanced understanding among non-Muslims. However, Muslims tend to face a lot of discrimination in the country. They are among the less educated people in the country. They are also disadvantaged economically, with many of them less likely to get a job or a home (Kabir, 2010, p. 56). Many Muslim youths in the country have varying beliefs concerning their religion. They face conflicts between their religion and the British culture. Some are confused about embracing the British and western way of life, while, at the same time, practicing their religion. Many of the young Muslims born in Britain identify themselves with the British culture because they have learnt how to integrate. They have adopted many British ways, and they only practice Islamic religion and culture in their homes. For many youths, this has led to conflicts with their parents, most of whom embrace Islam and reject the western way of life (Kabir, 2010, p. 39).

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India

Muslims in India are a distinct group because most of them have adopted some concepts of the Indian culture. For instance, Indian Muslims have adopted the caste system, which is particular in the Indian culture. The Ansaris and the Qureshis are some of the class systems among the Muslim Indians. The Ansaris belong to one of the lowest communities in the Muslim communities in the country, and are commonly associated with weaving. The Qureshis belong to the impure caste system, and are involved in slaughtering. The Ashraf are the nobles or the upper class, and they are the descendants of people from Muslim countries, or from the Hindu upper class who converted to Islam. They are members of the elite group. The Aljaf are the commoners, and they are the descendants of the Hindu converts from the lower caste. The practice of the caste system has led to different interpretations and practice of Islam. One of the fundamental pillars of Islam is zakat, or charitable giving. According to Islamic law well off Muslims should support the poor. Unfortunately, most of the charity given by the upper class Muslims goes towards funding the madrasas, instead of helping the poor Muslims within the community (Gayer & Jaffelot, 2012, p. 74). Muslims form a significant part of the Indian population. They are influential in some sectors, although, they continue facing a lot of discrimination. Many Muslims do not get the chance to work in good jobs in both, the public and private sectors, although, they have the required skills and qualifications. The problem is made worse by the caste system in India, which seems to reserve most of the good jobs to the upper class Hindus.

Middle East

Islam is the commonly accepted religion in Middle East countries, with the exception of Israel. However, observance and practices differ from country to country. Some countries are more conservative in observing their religion than the others. Thus, countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, tend to be more liberal than countries such as Saudi Arabia. Some of the countries in the Middle East are Islamic countries including Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. They have established the Islamic laws, which guide most of their lives and business transactions. The exception in the Middle East is Israel, which is mostly a Jewish nation, surrounded by Islamic countries. Israel contains the largest number of Jews. About 72% of the population in Israel is Jewish. There are several Muslims in Israel and its surrounding territories (Daughrity, 2010, p. 42).

Pakistan

Islam is the main religion in Pakistan, and it has the second most populous Muslim population, after Indonesia. Most of the Muslims in the country are Sunnis, although, there is a small percentage of the Shiite Muslims. There are several ethnic groups in Pakistan, and the groups apply their tradition and heritage to their religion. Because of this, there tends to be some differences in the practice and observance of Islam in the country. The different Islamic groups in the country sometimes conflict with each other, and fight amongst themselves. Pakistan is the only country founded under Islam, and all its systems and polity follow the Islamic law (Wasti, 2009, p. 28).

How Islam is understood in each country’s culture and contrasted with Christianity and Judaism

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Christianity in the US enjoys a wide following across the country. There are many denominations and Christian groups across the country, both catholic and protestant. The US does not have a big Jewish population. Most religious faiths in western countries have learnt to coexist with each other, although, negative perceptions remain. Christians in the Middle East are a minority. The number of Christians in countries such as Iraq and Iran are about 2% each. Christians in many of the Middle Eastern countries face religious persecutions, and they are not able to practice their faith openly, with the exception being in Israel. About 3% of the population in Israel is Christian, and there are several churches in and around the city of Jerusalem. This is despite the fact that Christians in the region face discrimination from both, the Jewish and the Muslim population in the country. There are many foreign workers in countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Although the countries are largely Islamic, there tends to be a high number of Christians because of the foreign workers living and working in these countries (Daughrity, 2010, p. 34).

Many people tend to have a distorted view of Islam in Great Britain, because they lack the proper understanding of the religion. Their only source of information about Islam comes from the media news, and this leads to people having one perception of the religion. This information, together with news reports about terror committed by Muslims, has led to Islamophobia in the country. Great Britain is mostly Christian, and there is a general acceptability of the Christian traditions in the country. Since Christians are the majority in the country, they tend to form most of the population in different sectors. However, British Muslims have been active in politics over the years, and they have contributed significantly to other sectors.

Christians form a small percentage of India’s population, and are, therefore, at a disadvantage. Their fate is no better than that of the Muslim community in the country, and they sometimes face religious persecutions from the Hindu majority. Jews in India do not face discrimination or persecution from the larger majority, although, they are only a small percentage of the population. Most of them thrive economically, and they have managed to set up successful businesses in the country and get employment in the public and private sector. Christians comprise a small percentage of the population in Pakistan, and some of them have faced religious persecutions.

How do these understandings impact the ways that Muslims interact and communicate with one another

Many Muslims practice Islam in a similar manner, although there are some differences among the different Islamic groups. These differences are because of the different cultures of the people in the same countries, or in different countries. Muslims in countries such as America and India are not homogenous, and they apply different practices in their Islamic faith. At the same time, the way Muslims practice their religion differs in different countries. British Muslims have different observances and practices from the Pakistani Muslims. Some of these differences are significant, and they can be a source of conflict and misunderstanding between different groups. However, as Muslims from different countries interact with each other, they get a clearer understanding of each other’s views. Most Muslims in non-Islamic countries face similar challenges, whether it is lack of understanding between different people, or the negative stereotypes passed on by the media. These challenges help the Muslims understand each other better, as they share their experiences, and as they learn how to deal with the challenges. 

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