that Islam isn't a real religion, but just a cult, and referring to it as a "so-called religion"
that if people only read the biography of Muhammad they'll understand why Syrian Shari'ah makes a woman burn herself
that face veiling is just "Arab culture" and has no basis in religion
that Muslims try to "sugarcoat" Islam and they don't actually follow the Qur'an?
I've heard each of these over the past two days and I just get confused. The first one I've seen in two places, so maybe it's getting popular (on forums and blogs, anyway) to say that Islam isn't a real religion. It's kind of a crackpot statement, since it's the world's second largest religion (by number of adherents) and the world's largest purely monotheistic religion. The characteristics which define Islam should be defining for any religion--Islam should be the standard, really, as it's so pervasive globally. So to say it's not a real religion? It requires the logic-defying arrogance equivalent to declaring the earth is flat.
The second one I heard on NPR on Friday, during an interview of a particular published enemy of Islam whom the host didn't bother to ask any meaningful questions. The woman hails from Syria--which she upholds as a bastion of Islamic idealism, even Shari'ah (I find this particularly laughable, since Syria is well-known to be quite far from Shari'ah and actually makes it more difficult for Muslims to practice Islam there than here in the USA.) And then bases her entire argument against Islam on an emotional appeal--the tragic (if true, it was indeed tragic and inexcusable) suffering of a female relative. She then bizarrely tries to claim that abuse and oppression of women is based in the biography of Muhammad (pbuh) and encourages listeners to read it in order to verify her claims. I find that pretty odd since I would encourage listeners to do the same thing--read his biography--to see through her weak and unsupported argument.
To be more specific, she highlighted an instance of forced marriage--yet in a clear hadith a woman is permitted a divorce simply because she was married without her consent. In fact, the woman went to the Prophet himself and asked her the question. So she wasn't locked up, forced to stay at home, not allowed to talk to men, or considered to be shameful by the Prophet (pbuh) to speak to him about her husband and to question the marriage.
Then she (the aforementioned enemy of Islam) pointed to the marriage of the Prophet (pbuh) to his wife Aisha, who she claimed to be 6 years old. Again, actually reading the biography would clear up that matter as well.
The third point above comes from a discussion about the burqa banning and arises from Americans who I can only imagine feel that if 20 or 30 women in their city choose to cover their faces, that society is going to collapse, their wives will be cowed into submission to male dominance and forced to wear a suit that looks like--actually, I won't even say how it was described, lest I offend my sisters who choose to wear it. In short, those fears are totally baseless, and I can't see them as anything other than pure bigotry. Moreover, it seems to be a convenient excuse for those who do hate the face veil to pretend that veiling actually doesn't belong to Islam. Without delving too deeply into the religious argument for the veiling of the face, I will say that we have clear evidence that the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) covered their faces, and as that is true, who on earth has the right to prevent a woman from aspiring to such nobility and modesty as maintained by the mothers of the believers?
The last remark is the most curious of all, though I know it's not new. In fact, it's a remark which brought me to Islam five years ago--when someone claimed that the Qur'an promoted violence which Muslims were just hiding. I have relatives who still believe this to be the case. But the difference between me and them on this issue is that I have actually read the Qur'an. The obvious result is that now I am a Muslim. So if anyone is going around claiming that, the refutation is simply to actually read the texts.
Why doesn't the truth speak for itself? Because society likes to watch the shadows on the wall instead of looking at reality and the light of day.