“Muslims hate Jews.” “Muslim women are oppressed.” “All Muslims are violent.”
These are just a few of the misconceptions about Islam that Dr. Imad Enchassi attempted to dispel on April 18 at a lecture and food fair on campus sponsored by the Muslim Student Association.
Enchassi is the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City.
About 30 people eagerly listened while eating ethnic food the Muslim students had prepared.
Although these are misconceptions that almost everyone believes, Enchassi presented his slide show to illustrate who Muslims are and what Islam stands for.
“Muslims are all violent, right? We are all terrorists, we promote killing and we are barbaric, right?” Enchassi said, noting this is the first misconception he hoped to dispel.
“Islam derives from the word SLM, which means peace,” he said.
Enchassi said the heart of the Islamic message is to be respectful and to have peaceful relationships.
In a phone interview after two Muslim men were identified as the bombers at the Boston Marathon, Enchassi said their departure from the Muslim focus on peace promotes confusion. He said they don’t typify adherents to the Islamic faith.
“What I am most concerned about is why a violent act of a Muslim is considered to be terrorism while a violent act of a non-Muslim is labeled a crazy guy,” Enchassi said.
“We learned through media outlets that the two bombers grew up in a dysfunctional family. The older one had developed a drug addiction. It is only in the last year he started to become adherent to his faith.”
When the public links the bombers to Islam, it causes concern for the entire Muslim community, he said.
“Oklahoma City is a very unique place, simply because we went through the Oklahoma City bombing when we Muslims got fingers pointed at us.
“But Oklahoma, as a state, has the least hate crime towards Muslims since 2011. After the Boston bombing I have not experienced any hate crime. Not even a single hateful e-mail,” Enchassi said.
He said the overall purpose of his lecture was to bring insight and a better understanding to those who are ill informed about Muslims and the Islamic religion.
At the event on campus he interacted with the audience and asked them for their views. Enchassi also focused on the biggest stereotype of Muslims, that women have no rights.
“How many of you think that, when you see a woman wearing a headscarf, that she is oppressed?” he asked.
Many people throughout the room raised their hands.
He then showed a slide with multiple pictures of the Virgin Mary, a central figure in the Christian faith.
“What is Mary wearing on her head?” he asked. Everyone replied with “a headscarf.” “There is not one picture in history that shows Mary not wearing a headscarf,” Enchassi said. “So why is she not labeled as oppressed, as well?”
When Enchassi pointed this out, the room went silent.
Enchassi also noted that many believe Muslim women cannot vote, are second class and owned by their husbands.
He said in reality, Muslim women have equal voting rights to a man, are allowed divorce and are given the opportunity for an education.
“In Islam, when a man and woman get married, the wife does not take the husband’s last name. You know why? Because a woman is not a man’s property,” he said.
Although Muslim women are not allowed to drive that does not mean they are less equal than men. Enchassi said the reason is because in the Islamic religion, women are not allowed to travel alone; therefore, they cannot drive.
A woman in the audience made the statement to Enchassi: “You have lessened my fear.”
Enchassi thanked her and said he was glad he could do so.