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ISLAMIC CULTURAL ESSAY

Zachary Marcum
CIS 110
University of Kentucky

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Throughout my life, I have always had a skewed perspective of people in
other cultures than my own, especially when religion is involved. Since I was young,
I was raised in a non-religious household and was told that religion was only for
those who were weak. As I grew older I was introduced to the Christian faith and I
am still a believer. Since I adopted the only real religion I was introduced to, my
knowledge of other religions were limited to say the least. In high school I took
several history classes to learn more about other cultures but I couldn’t help but feel
that I had only scratched the surface of the many wonderful beliefs that exist in the
world. As my education advanced, I tried to learn as much as I could about religions
other than Christianity. I took a particular interest in Islam due to its’ world
popularity. I learned more and more about the religion itself but was never able to
view the culture from someone else’s perspective. This project finally gave me the
opportunity to learn how Muslim people live their lives and how it differs from my
own. The research I conducted along with Interviewing Asir and Zane gave me a
chance to view the real Muslim culture and opened my eyes to how their everyday
lives are along with the stereotypes and adversities they face from those not in their
culture. I ultimately learned that a culture should not be judged on the acts of the
few and everyone deserves a separate opinion, no two people in a culture are the
same.

Islam is a monotheistic religion founded by the one named Muhammad.
Muhammad is believed to be the last prophet chosen by god to spread word of the
religion to all the people of the world. Islam is very close to Judaism and

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Christianity; all three of these religions are grouped in as “people of the book”. In his
interview, Asir said, “The only difference between Islam and Christianity is that we
don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God and that Christianity does.” People seem to view
Islam as some distant religion and are turned off to the culture because of religious
difference. In reality, Islam shares many of the same core values and beliefs of other
religions. Even though people have some differences in beliefs, they can still connect
over the common aspects.

Muhammad himself did greatly help with the expansion of Islam but it was
not a worldwide religion until after his death. After the death of Muhammad, the
Islamic empire underwent one of the largest expansions in history across Europe
and Asia. Some of the conquered civilizations were forced to convert where others
accepted the religion without argument. As timed passed and ideas were shared,
Islam grew to the 2nd largest religion with 22.47% of the world. Since this is such a
large religion, this culture is very prevalent in the United States and even in the state
of Kentucky. With almost a quarter of the people on earth being Muslim one would
assume that people would know more about the culture but it appears that many
non-Muslims do not, myself included.
(Insert more history)

Muslim culture is a very broad term that covers Asian Muslim, middleeastern Muslim, and American Muslim. My main focus is on middle-eastern/
American Muslim since that is the most practiced form in the U.S. and also the

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branch practiced by my interviewees. Muslim law is very strict and is only for the
truly devout, but it has a very strong effect on the daily culture of those who
practice. One of the largest requirements of Islam is that followers pray five times
everyday of the year. Some choose to pray at home but it is encouraged that all pray
in a mosque. Prayers at mosques are a great way for people to meet others with the
same beliefs and cultures and it is a great way to unify Muslim people in a certain
area. In Islam, it is also encouraged to visit the holy city of Mecca at least once a
year. This act unites Muslims from around the world and provides a cultural bond
unlike any other. Like every religion, the attendance of service once a week also
allows people in the religion and subsequently in the community to meet and
communicate. Since Islam is a religion with more rules and requirements, there are
also more chances to communicate with people in the culture. This leads to a bond
in the community unmatched by any other religious culture I have seen, my own
included.

Islamic culture can have a strong influence on certain life decisions as well.
Islamic people are not allowed to eat pork due to their religion. This can be difficult
in a country like the US where people eat pork on a regular basis. Muslims are also
not allowed to consume alcohol. This would be very hard for a college student since
alcohol is so prevalent. These restrictions are less inclusive than other religions, but
it is by no means unmanageable. The Islamic religion affects culture by dress as well.
Islamic law requires all men to dress in a fashion that covers their knees during
prayer. Since Muslim’s pray five times a day, most members simply dress in this

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fashion all of the time. For women in Islamic culture, they must dress conservatively
in other ways. An Islamic woman is required to cover most of her body, hair, and
face because showing these areas are viewed as indecent. This leads to some
incorrect stereotypes that will be discussed later. Dress differs depending on the
country’s clothing preference but the principles remain the same.

Although Islam is so popular in the world today, there are still many
misconceptions and stereotypes about this religion and their culture. For the last
few decades, the United States has had a rough relationship with countries in the
Middle East. This has caused a media swarm over all of the negative things that have
happened in the last few years. Since the Middle East has a dominantly Islamic
population, there has been an unfair association with these actions and the Muslim
community. This means some people in the United States associate Islam with
terrorism. Unfortunately this association is common in the US and almost all
Muslims recognize this stereotype. This ironically creates another stereotype about
American ignorance on the topic of world issues. Both of the men I interviewed said
that terrorism is the biggest stereotype about the Muslim culture and the most
offensive. As I conducted more research I discovered just how harmful this
stereotype is. I read testimony after testimony of people who say that others are
uncomfortable around them. These small nonverbal messages have a large impact
on the self-esteem of individuals, people need to be aware of the impact that this
stereotyping has on others.

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There is also an assumption that Muslims mistreat women. This stereotype is
very widespread and is recognized by both of the men I interviewed. In Middle
Eastern culture, women are expected to dress conservatively because showing skin
would be considered indecent. Women also have restricted rights in these areas due
to the male dominant culture that has always been prominent in the Middle East.
Some would argue that the treatment of women is due to the influence of Islam and
there are many who say that the Quran (the Islamic holy book) instructed people to
act this way, but this isn’t true. The treatment of women is strictly cultural- based. In
Zane’s interview he says “In Muslim countries, the way society is set up stems from
culture not Islam itself, but people confuse the two”. On the topic of how women are
treated, people need to recognize that this is not how Muslims act; it is simply a
cultural aspect that people have unfairly associated with religion.

Islamic culture obviously helps members of the religion communicate with
each other, but it can also stand in the way of communication with those that aren’t
a part of Muslim culture. Religious difference is the most obvious communication
adversity that Muslims face, that being said it is also the most important. Religious
conflict in large scale has ruined unities and even started wars. On a smaller scale,
religious difference can lead to prejudice and very serious disagreement. This can
lead to little or no communication between people. Both of the people in my
interview said they associate with dominantly fellow Muslims and I know that this is
a large contributing factor. The misled correlation between Muslim culture and
terrorism has also turned people off to communication with Islamic people. These

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stereotypes along with many others inhibit communication between the Muslim
people and those of other cultures.

To have a full understanding on the correlation between religion and culture
in Islam, I decided to attend a tour at a local Mosque. On Sunday October 5th, I went
on a tour at the Islamic center of Lexington on South Limestone. When I arrived at
the center, I was surprised to see that it was a reconstructed house. When I got
inside the house I took my shoes off and place them in a rack and went into the
prayer room. I arrived during the Dhuhr prayer at 2:00 and they allowed me to
watch. It was interesting to see the prayers that I have heard so much about in
person. All of the people in the prayer bowed down facing the north wall of the
building and began to pray in unity. I am not familiar with the Arabic language so I
had trouble understanding what they were saying, but I was able to see the passion
that these people had in their prayers. The sheer devotion of these people was
inspiring to see. Visiting this prayer gave me a whole new understanding of the
Islamic people.

This project has given me the opportunity to form a better perspective of the
Muslim culture. It’s amazing to think about the ignorance that I possessed just one
month ago about one of the most popular cultures in the world. Islamic culture is
prevalent everywhere including on campus at UK, yet so many know nothing about
it. At the start of this project, I assumed that I knew many things about the Islamic
community as a whole and that I might not learn anything new. My theory was

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proven wrong from the start of my interview all the way to the end of my research. I
learned so many new things, good and bad, about the functions of Islamic culture.
Islamic culture has many factors that allow people inside the community to
communicate and form a strong bond. However, religious separation and
stereotypes cause a negative impact on intercultural communication. These
restrictions have led many Islamic people to associate mostly with people in their
culture. My main takeaway from this project is that people need to be more
understanding. Don’t allow the media to form your opinion, develop your own based
on your views. No one should have to face prejudice based on his or her culture or
religion; every individual is different and deserves a separate opinion.

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ISLAMIC CULTURAL ESSAY
Work Cited:
1. Arub-Habar, A. (1996,). A BRIEF ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING
ISLAM. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

2. Pluralism, S. (2014). Muslim Culture. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

3. Esposito, J. (1995, January 1). Introduction: The Islamic Tradition. Retrieved October
1, 2014.

4. Global Connections: The Middle East. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2014.
5. American Muslims in the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2014.
6. World's Muslim population more widespread than you might think. (2013, June 7).
Retrieved October 2, 2014.