Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Silent Majority

I spent the day reading about history and the modern world. I found out that 62% of the world's Muslims are Asian. Yet what is perceived as Islam by the world are those of Arabic culture.

We are under-represented, if not misrepresented.

Another thing I learned is the underlying difference between Sunni and Shia: Sunni believes in the Sunnah and Shia believes in the rightful figure of Muhammad's successor (Ali)). 85% of the world's Muslims are by definition Sunni.

We can go into a long theological debate, but I want to focus on one thing.

The media is focused on portraying a linear, monolithic Islam that is culturally homogeneous (Arabic) and dogmatic. See Hollywood films, see how the news represents Islam (e.g. terrorism, turbans, veils). I am not suspicious and puritanical enough to claim it's a conspiracy but it's naive to not think that it comes from ignorance about the characteristics of the larger population of Muslims in the world.

I have high hopes that the world is changing, by means of the notion of pluralism and democracy, at least. An example is Esposito and Mogahed's book on Who Speaks for Islam? and Mogahed's subsequent appointing as Obama's advisor for Muslim affairs.

I am not saying that the 'pluralist' Muslims are better than the rest. I am saying that the current media representation does not provide a comprehensive picture which may lead to bigotry. I know I'm late in jumping the wagon, what with Edward Said's Covering Islam in 1997, but I do think it's still an ongoing process worth prolonging the discourse. For all citizens of the world wishing to live peacefully in general and for the silent majority of Muslims in particular. Everyone deserves to be heard. Let's listen.

No comments: