21) Terrorism, unjustified violence and the killing of non-combatant civilians (or even intimidating, threatening or injuring them) are all absolutely forbidden in Islam. Islam is a way of life that is meant to bring peace to a society whether its people are Muslim or not. The extreme actions of those who claim to be Muslim may be a result of their ignorance, frustration, uncontrolled anger or political (not religious) ambitions. Anyone who condones or commits an act of terrorism in the name of Islam is simply not following Islam and is, in fact, violating its very tenets. These people are individuals with their own personal views and agendas. Fanatical Muslims are no more representative of the true teachings of Islam than fanatical Christians are of the true teachings of Christianity or fanatical Jews are of the true teachings of Judaism. The most prominent examples of such "religious" fanatics are Anders Behring Breivik, the 2011 Norwegian terrorist who claimed in his manifesto to be "100 percent Christian" and Baruch Goldstein, perpetrator of the 1994 Hebron massacre who is considered by some Jews to be a "hero" and a "saint". Extremism and fanaticism are problems not exclusive to Muslims. Anyone who thinks that all Muslims are terrorists should remember that the former boxer Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most celebrated person of our era, is a practicing Muslim.
22) The word "jihad" does not mean "holy war". It actually means "to struggle" or "to strive". In a religious context it means the struggle to successfully surrender one's will to the will of God. Some Muslims may say they are going for "jihad" when fighting in a war to defend themselves or others, but they say this because they are conceding that it will be a tremendous struggle. But there are many other forms of jihad which are much more relevant to the everyday life of a Muslim such as the struggles against laziness, arrogance, stinginess, one's own ego, or the struggle against a tyrant ruler or against the temptations of Satan, etc. Regarding the so-called verses of "holy war" in the Qur'an, two points: A) The term "holy war" neither appears in the Arabic text of the Qur'an nor in any classical teachings of Islam. B) The vast majority of verses in the Qur'an pertaining to violence refer to wartime situations in which Muslims were permitted to defend themselves against violent aggression. Any rational, intellectual analysis of the context and historical circumstances surrounding such verses, often ignored by pundits or violent extremists, proves this to be true. Other verses of violence deal with stopping oppression, capital punishment and the like.
23) Women are not oppressed in Islam. Any Muslim man that oppresses a woman is not following Islam. Among the many teachings of Muhammad that protected the rights and dignity of women is his saying, "...the best among you are those who treat their wives well."
24) Islam grants women many rights in the home and in society. Among them are the right to earn money, to financial support, to own property, to an education, to an inheritance, to being treated kindly, to vote, to a bridal gift, to keep their maiden name, to worship in a mosque, to a divorce, and so on.
25) Muslim women wear the head-covering (hijab) in fulfillment of God's decree to dress modestly. This type of modest dress has been worn by religious women throughout time such as traditional Catholic nuns, Mother Teresa and the Virgin Mary.
26) Forced marriages, honor killings, female genital mutilation and the confinement of women to their homes are all forbidden in Islam. These practices stem from deeply entrenched cultural traditions and/or ignorance of the true Islamic teachings or how to apply them in society. Arranged marriages are allowed in Islam but are not required. In fact, one of the conditions for a valid Islamic marriage contract is the mutual consent of both parties to the marriage. And divorce is permissible provided the Islamic guidelines are followed which protect the rights of all affected parties, especially women and unborn children.
27) Islam and the Nation "of Islam" are two different religions. Islam is a religion for all races and enjoins the worship of the One Unseen God who never took human form. On the other hand "the Nation" is a movement geared towards non-whites that teaches God appeared as a man named Fard Muhammad and that Elijah Muhammad was a prophet. According to orthodox Islam these are blasphemous beliefs that contradict the basic theology defined throughout the Qur'an and other authentic texts. The followers of "the Nation" adhere to some Islamic principles that are mixed with other practices and beliefs completely alien to authentic Islamic teachings. To better understand the differences read about Malcolm X, his pilgrimage to Mecca and his subsequent comments to the media. Islam teaches equality amongst the races (Qur'an 49:13).
28) All Muslims are not Arab, Middle-Eastern or of African descent. Islam is a universal religion and way of life that includes followers from all races. There are Muslims in and from virtually every country in the world. Arabs only constitute about 20% of Muslims worldwide. The country today with the largest Muslim population is not located in the Middle East. It is Indonesia with over 200 million Muslims. India ranks second with 175 million.
29) In the five daily prayers Muslims face the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is a cube-shaped stone structure that was built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael on the same foundations where Prophet Adam is believed to have built a sanctuary for the worship of the One God. Muslims do not worship the Kaaba. It serves as a focal point for Muslims around the world, unifying them in worship and symbolizing their common belief, spiritual focus and direction. Interestingly the inside of the Kaaba is empty.
30) The hajj is an annual pilgrimage to the Kaaba made by about 3 million Muslims from all corners of the Earth. It is performed to fulfill one of the pillars of Islam. The rituals of hajj commemorate the struggles of Abraham, his wife Hagar and their son Ishmael in surrendering their wills to God.