Why This “All Muslims Are Terrorists” Mantra Needs to Stop

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Now I may not do a serious post very often but I think a post on anti-Muslim bias and Islamophobia in the United States is long overdue. I know this post will anger some people and possibly cause controversy. But as a practicing Catholic, liberal, and American, I think whatever I put on this post needs to be addressed even if results in a lot of trolling and angry comments. Sure I know very well that Muslim terrorists orchestrated 9/11 and killed Americans in the Middle East and you all have a right to be upset about it. After all, we all were. It’s all right to condemn Islamic radicalism, fundamentalism, and terrorism as well as the injustice wreaked upon by Muslim nations in the name of Allah. And I see absolutely no problem with condemning Islamic terrorist attacks on anyone whether they be American, Israeli, French, Japanese, or anything else. Neither do I see anything wrong with criticizing dictatorships and corruption, whether they be theocratic like Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia or not like Egypt or Syria (as far as I know). In fact, I encourage people to condemn terrorism and injustice anywhere and I have not qualms against any outrage over people mistreating one another in the name of God, Allah, profit, patriotism, politics, or whatever.

This is a handy cartoon of how Islamophobia affects people's perception of Muslims. Here we have a Muslim in the same pose as a white person in similar garb. But they are seen as totally different things.

This is a handy cartoon of how Islamophobia affects people’s perception of Muslims. Here we have a Muslim in the same pose as a white person in similar garb. But they are seen as totally different things.

However, just keep in mind that any Islamic violence or injustice in the Middle East and abroad gives you absolutely no excuse to stereotype all Muslims as terrorists, irrational, anti-American, anti-western, fanatical, sexist, bigoted, anti-democratic, homophobic, Anti-Semitic, culturally backward or what not. Whenever you equate Islam with all these wretched things, you not only insult and unfairly discriminate 1.6 billion people or 23% of the world’s population as well as make up the majority in 57 countries around the world, you also do the same to 2-7 million of your fellow Americans, whether you see them as such or not. Despite what we all see in the news media, we need to acknowledge that despite the public knowledge of Muslim leaders and terrorists committing crimes against humanity, they don’t represent the majority of the Muslim population, which is made up of different denominations as well as consists of followers as diverse in culture, opinion, and religious practice. Yes, there are a few violent extremists out there but they aren’t representative of the Islamic faith in any way, shape, or form. Sure Islam might have some alien elements in it than we’re used to, but in many ways it’s no so different than the religions we practice or the ideas we hold. And while Muslims themselves may dress differently, talk differently, look differently, or whatever, when you actually get to know some of them, you realize that they’re not so different from ourselves, even in places like Iran.

This 2011 chart illustrates Americans' attitudes toward religion and American Muslims. But while Most Americans believe in religious freedom, a sizeable number of them aren't comfortable around Muslims and hold Anti-Muslim views. Hypocrites.

This 2011 chart illustrates Americans’ attitudes toward religion and American Muslims. But while Most Americans believe in religious freedom, a sizeable number of them aren’t comfortable around Muslims and hold Anti-Muslim views. Hypocrites.

Unfortunately, thanks to sensationalist media and Fox News, many Americans don’t see Muslims or Islam this way and this is a problem, especially if they’re Arab or live in the Middle East and North Africa. Since 9/11, Islamophobia in America has been on the rise and it doesn’t help that the Boston Marathon bombers were Muslim and so were the groups ISIS and Boko Haram. What’s even worse is that Anti-Islamic bigotry isn’t just limited to those on the Christian and political right but has been systematically nurtured in America for quite some time, especially during the last 14 years. Yes, you get a lot of Anti-Islamic sentiment from the hate filled Fox News, Republican politicians, and the megachurch Evangelical preachers in the Bible Belt. But you also see a lot of Anti-Islamic bigotry (implied and otherwise) from new age atheists movements on the far left, on TV shows and programs like Live with Bill Maher, Hollywood movies, and even in the news where acts of Islamic violence and injustice are regularly reported. But incidences of nonviolent Muslims living ordinary lives within their local communities are not. And while there are films that portray Muslims as human beings like The Devil’s Double, Slumdog Millionaire, Syriana, Babel, The Kite Runner, Crash, Salmon Fishing in Yemen, and A Most Wanted Man but these films are quickly overshadowed in the US box office by movies like 300, Zero Dark Thirty, the Taken Trilogy, and American Sniper. These 4 successful box office franchises make the stereotyped Arab caricatures you see on Lawrence of Arabia seem respectable in comparison. As for TV, you have shows like 24 and Homeland casting Muslims as Islamic terrorist villains.

Here is a pie chart from the ICNA that shows the components of Islamic Sharia law. Note that it mostly consists of rituals of worship as well as personal, economic, and family laws. The bad stuff that you hear most about Sharia Law only consists of a small fraction.

Here is a pie chart from the ICNA that shows the components of Islamic Sharia law. Note that it mostly consists of rituals of worship as well as personal, economic, and family laws. The bad stuff that you hear most about Sharia Law only consists of a small fraction.

Today Islamophobia operates on a network including funders, organizations, media outlets, propagandists, activists, and political players busy on creating a climate of fear, hate, and suspicion of Muslims in America and abroad. Now I understand that we Americans value our First Amendment rights guaranteeing freedom of religion and expression. We cherish or right to practice our faith however we please and express our opinions. But American Muslims continue to attract anger from all sides of the political spectrum whether it pertains to a student reciting “The Pledge of Allegiance” in Arabic as part of a Foreign Languages Week, taking the oath of office on a Koran, praying to Allah for scoring a touchdown, a university allowing Muslim students to sound their call of prayer from their facilities, or expressing a desire to build a Mosque or an Islamic center in their local municipality whether it be 2 miles from Ground Zero or Murfeesboro, Tennessee. Such actions are only those of a people who only wish to express and worship freely just like their fellow Americans who came before them. They desire to commit no violence against the United States, only to be recognized as American as their fellow countrymen. But too many Americans see Islam at odds with American values and erroneously portray extremism of the Muslim world as representative of the Muslim faith.

Here is a screenshot I took from a Muslim American infographic survey from the Pew Research Center. This pertains to how American Muslims view the US compared to what the general public thinks of them.

Here is a screenshot I took from a Muslim American infographic survey from the Pew Research Center. This pertains to how American Muslims view the US compared to what the general public thinks of them.

Islamophobia has become so socially acceptable that many see little qualms about being public of the fact. Too many believe that American Muslims are working to subvert the US Constitution. Many go so far as to believe that Muslims shouldn’t be eligible to run for high electoral office, sit as judges, be eligible for citizenship, or be required to swear loyalty oaths. Many Muslim Americans have also been discriminated on their jobs and consist of a fifth of religion charges as reported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011. Across the country, Muslims have to put up with hate speech linking their religious identity to terrorism, whether it be flyers threatening mass murder, angry protests, anti-Muslim ads on buses, anti-Islamic jabs by the media and powers that be, Koran burnings, or being viewed with suspicion by non-Muslim members in their communities. Many American Muslims have been chastised for not being sorry for the 9/11 attacks or sensitive enough for the victims’ families, as if they’re guilty by association. And when some Muslim community wants to build a mosque, you can bet there will be considerable opposition. Sometimes when Islamophobia is brought up, many people will go out of their way to deny it exists citing how the Koran advocates violence, slavery, intolerance of unbelievers, mistreatment of women, etc. But they are just trying to rationalize their hatred about something they don’t completely understand. However, denying Islamophobia exists just makes things worse. Sure I’m with people criticizing religion and how it’s practiced in some parts of the world, but I’m staunchly against it when people criticize a faith in a way that it’s disrespectful to those who observe it as well as outright religious hate speech. And sometimes anti-Muslim sentiment can turn into action.

This map from the Center of American Islamic Relations or (CAIR) that depicts the status of Anti-Muslim legislation in 2011. By this time 5 states have passed Anti-Muslim legislation while bills were active in the Carolinas.

This map from the Council of American Islamic Relations or (CAIR) that depicts the status of Anti-Muslim legislation in 2011. By this time 5 states have passed Anti-Muslim legislation while bills were active in the Carolinas.

Sometimes Islamophobia can result in discriminatory legislation and social policy. Since 9/11, the federal government has implemented policies targeting Muslim communities as well as reinforcing the notion they’re worthy of suspicion. Sure the government should be concerned about national security but it seems that during the Bush and Obama administrations, Muslim radicalization seems like the main concern. Under George W. Bush, people from Middle Eastern and South Asian countries were required to register with immigration authorities resulting in detaining and deporting 13,000 of them. Under Barack Obama, the FBI continues engaging in pointed surveillance and information gathering in Muslim communities, which the Department of Justice tried to justify. But Muslim profiling doesn’t stop at the federal level for the New York Police Department does the same thing. A few years ago, Oklahoma enacted a constitutional amendment that banned state judges from considering Islamic Sharia Law which would in practice prohibit a judge from probating an Islamic will. And Oklahoma’s situation isn’t unique for there have been 78 bills or amendments designed to vilify Islamic religious practices introduced in legislatures in 29 states. As of 2013, Anti-Islam bills have become law in 7 states.

Here is an American Islamic center vandalized with words telling them to

Here is an American Islamic center vandalized with words telling them to “Go Home,” “9/11,” “(Rah) You Idol Worshipir,” and “Murderer.” Note that many Mideast Muslims who arrive in America are refugees fleeing violence who feel they have nowhere else to go.

And sometimes Islamophobia can descend into all out violence. Since 2001, anti-Muslim violence has skyrocketed in the United States with Muslim establishments being vandalized and desecrated. It has also resulted in people committing hate crimes against Muslim individuals that range from property destruction, robbery, assault, stalking, intimidation, and even murder. Last month, a new atheist militant shot 3 young Muslims over a “parking dispute” near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (which we all know was definitely a hate crime). Later this was followed by an arson attack against a Houston Islamic community center which led to a fireman post on his social media page, “Let it burn…block the fire hydrant.” In Austin, a man was arrested for making a bomb threat against a Muslim community center. In Rhode Island, a Muslim day school was vandalized with the words, “Now this is a hate crime” and “pigs,” as well as expletives referring to the Islamic faith. And in December at Kansas City, Missouri, a 15 year old Muslim boy was killed when a driver plowed into him, almost severing his legs outside the Somali Center. All this is just part of a long list of crimes directed against American Muslims since September 11, which I can’t list on them for there’s so many. But whenever someone voices anti-Islamic views in the mass media, it only takes one lunatic hearing them to act on them.

Muslims aren't the only religious group affected by Islamophobia. This graffiti was found on a Hindu Temple in Washington State, which was mistaken for a mosque. Yet, it's just as bad.

Muslims aren’t the only religious group affected by Islamophobia. This graffiti was found on a Hindu Temple in Washington State, which was mistaken for a mosque. Many Americas have no idea that there’s a lot of religious diversity in South Asia so even those who are just presumed Muslim can be targets for hate crimes.

Islamophobia doesn’t affect just Muslims either. Groups also affected are non-Muslims from the Middle East and North Africa, South Asians, Hindus, and Sikhs. These people may not be Muslims but since many people tend to link Islam with certain aspects like turbans, Asian architecture, veils, Middle Eastern and South Asian features, etc. This leads many to suspect those of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent as being from Muslim communities making them targets of violence as well. In 2012, a white supremacist killed 6 Sikhs at their place of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. How do I know it was probably motivated by Islamlophobia? Because a lot of Americans have no idea what a Sikh is and that male Sikhs are religiously mandated to wear turbans. That December, a Hindu businessman was shoved into the path of a train at a New York subway station by a 31 year old Hispanic woman named Erika Menendez, which resulted in him getting struck and killed. When asked by police why she did it, she said, “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims… Ever since 2001 when they put down the Twin Towers, I’ve been beating them up.” And recently a Hindu temple and a nearby school in Washington State were spray painted with a swastika and the words, “Muslims, Get Out.” So even though Islamophobia may chiefly target Muslims, this doesn’t mean that individuals other faiths are exempt from injustice, especially if they fit a person’s perception of one.

This pie chart illustrates the ethnicity make up of Muslims in the United States. The majority of Muslims are either of Mideastern or South Asian descent. This also makes non-Muslims from these two areas likely targets to Islamophobia.

This pie chart illustrates the ethnicity make up of Muslims in the United States. The majority of Muslims are either of Mideastern or South Asian descent. This also makes non-Muslims from these two areas likely targets to Islamophobia.

Still, the sad irony is that many immigrant Muslims seek refuge in America just to flee violence or political repression from their homes. Sometimes they have been driven off and tend to have nowhere else to go. Sure Islamic extremists may pose a threat to national security. But no matter how we see it, the biggest victims of Islamic extremism in the Middle East and abroad are Muslims themselves. Hundreds of thousands of them had died in the hands of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. To identify their faith with those of their killers isn’t just insulting but like defining other other religions with their worst members. And it makes things worse that these people have to be viewed with suspicion and fear by their new neighbors as they go through the most difficult transition of their lives. Most of these Muslims came to the US just to spend the rest of their lives in peace and without fear of persecution. They may have lost everything they had back in their home country or possibly lost someone they knew to the very extremists that some Americans view them in cahoots with. Making these terror victims guilty by association instead of reaching out to them in compassion does us no favors and may possibly compromise national security since Islamophobia might just give Islamic terrorists more excuses to hate the West as well as make many immigrant Muslim Americans more prone to radicalization by terror groups.

Here's a list of everyday activities many American Muslims do compared to the general public according to the Pew Research Center survey. Note the glaring absence of anything pertaining to terrorist activities proclaiming

Here’s a list of everyday activities many American Muslims do compared to the general public according to the Pew Research Center survey. Note the glaring absence of anything pertaining to terrorist activities or proclaiming “Death to America.”

Perhaps the root of Islamophobia in the United States is that most Americans have no idea about Islam and its culture  and don’t know any Muslims firsthand (I’ve known two who were both Pakistani immigrants). Not to mention, they learn about Islam from non-Muslim sources like news outlets such as Fox News, which has hardly reliable information about anything. And what they do know is that Islamic culture is different from ours and that a few members are prone to commit acts of terror and violence against their own people in the Middle East. Thus, many see them as “the Other” and tend to fear them. These people my think they know everything they need about Islam being a violent religion that oppresses anyone who doesn’t subscribe to 100% of its doctrine. But what they don’t know is that Islam is no monolith and that it has been responsive to change since its founding in the 7th century. They also don’t know how a lot of Muslims ignore the bad stuff in the Islamic texts or Sharia Law just like Christians do when it comes to the Bible (as well as come from the same Abrahamic tradition as Judaism and that a lot of Islam’s values are not much different from ours). Not to mention, they don’t have any idea that Islamic practices vary among Muslims as a whole. And while Islamophobes claim that Islam is a violent and intolerant religion, many forget that most Muslims don’t see it that way and would feel that concepts like violent Jihad, apostasy laws, theocratic rule, and honor killings as abhorrent.

Here's another screenshot of an infographic from the Pew Research Center that show how Muslim Americans are holding up since 9/11. The majority of them day it's more difficult being a Muslim in the US and that many report negative experiences.

Here’s another screenshot of an infographic from the Pew Research Center that show how Muslim Americans are holding up since 9/11. The majority of them say it’s more difficult being a Muslim in the US and that many report negative experiences.

Now I’m not a Muslim and I may not understand Islam as well as I should. But I know well enough that terrorists can be of any religion and that they aren’t at all representative of their faith and every religion harbors extremist fringe of some sort. Islam is no different. But while it’s perfectly fine to fear Islamic extremists terrorists attacking our country, it’s not okay to associate all Muslims as guilty of association or view them with suspicion and disgust when you have no reason to. Muslims are human beings who deserve a chance of fair judgement based on individual communication, just like everyone else. Throughout our history, Muslim Americans have contributed a great deal to this country socially and economically. Some of them have even served in our Armed Forces and even died for this country fighting for our freedom. And like the rest of us, most American Muslims are well integrated in our society, support our values, and are very concerned about extremist violence in the United States. To associate them as guilty of terrorist activity because they have the same religion as the Islamic terrorists you see in the media is simply Un-American and goes against everything our country stands for. It also ignores history, too. Not only does it exclude and marginalize Muslim Americans from mainstream society and politics, but also makes them more vulnerable to hate crimes.

This infographic from Religion Link reports that though Islam is practiced worldwide by 1 in 5 people, most Americans know nothing or little about it. The fact many Americans don't know much about Islam is a main driver in Islamophobia.

This infographic from Religion Link reports that though Islam is practiced worldwide by 1 in 5 people, most Americans know nothing or little about it. The fact many Americans don’t know much about Islam is a main driver in Islamophobia.

I know there may be those viewing this who’d decry that Islamophobia is a myth and that I’m full of shit. But I tell you that a key symptom of any widespread prejudice or hatred is denying that it exists. So those denying the very existence of Islamophobia are Islamophobes themselves and thus, not to be trusted in Islamic affairs. It’s not Islamophobic to hate Muslim terrorists for being the dangerous criminals and extremists they are. But it’s Islamophobic to use Islamic terrorism to hate Islam and Muslims in general, especially when they have absolutely no inclination for terrorism in the first place. Whether it be by negative media portrayals, discrimination, or hate crime, Islamophobia is real, it’s happening, and it’s a problem for all of us. Yes, there are bad Muslims out there as well as Muslim nations that do very terrible things, sometimes in the name of their religion and sometimes not. But none of that proves that Islam is an evil faith or that all Muslims are terrorists, which is simply not true. Those who say Islamophobia is bogus not only makes it acceptable to scapegoat Muslims but also puts people’s lives at risk, especially when it pertains to hate crime. As a nation, we can’t tolerate such denial which leads to hatred of a people and culture many of us know nothing about and can’t fully understand, even if they just happen to practice the faith of our enemies. Call me a coward trying to manipulate morons, but to me Islamophobia has existed for a very long time in our history which has arisen from the forces of hate, fear, and ignorance toward Muslims. And I see no reason why it should continue.

Still not convinced? Here are some links:

From The American Muslim: http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamophobia_incidents/0013129

From Council of American Islamic Relations: http://www.islamophobia.org/

From Islamophobia Today: http://www.islamophobiatoday.com/

From IAM: Islamophobia Awareness Month: http://iamonth.org/

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 11- Middle Eastern and Islamic History

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Though I don’t get into Lawrence of Arabia until World War I, I think this is probably the best movie about Middle Eastern history to post since it’s basically the only movie about the region that many people have seen which doesn’t have genies or magic carpets in them. Also, it’s a film that takes place at a very transitional time like WWI between the waning days of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East of today.

Of course, Hollywood history has usually been biased toward Western Civilization with the later years strongly focused on Europe and later the Americas. Prehistory is geared to pretty much the world, ancient history usually toward the Middle East and Mediterranean, and medieval history mostly focuses on Europe. However, there were so much other things happening elsewhere in the world but Hollywood just doesn’t seem to pay much attention to them. For the next several posts, I’ll devote to discussing the historical inaccuracies set in the Middle East post-biblical times, Asia, Africa, and the Pre-Columbian America. Of course, I’ll get into things based in modern times but I’ll also cover earlier aspects as well (except with Pre-Columbian America). Nevertheless, many of these places still contain important history worth mentioning which has changed the world. Also, I am talking about “world history” which should include other areas not under the Western radar. Still, anything relating to Oceania or Australia will be under colonial history since people there don’t have much of a history to begin with. History of the Caribbean will be under Latin American history, Pre-Columbian America, or Colonialism depending on era.

Of course, the best place to start with non-Western history will be in the Middle East. When we left off from there in Ancient History, it was the cradle of civilization as well as a place of biblical events. Sure much of it was part of the Roman Empire but by the time the Western Empire fell in the 400s, the Eastern Empire would continue to exist for another thousand years until Turks sack Constantinople in 1453. Yet, during the Middle Ages, what we call the Byzantine Empire was very much in decline by the Crusades. However, the Middle East would continue to be dominated by empires until recent times mostly by outsiders like the Turks, Mongols, and the British and French. Yet,  during the Middle Ages, the Middle East also saw the birth of a new religion called Islam founded in 622 A. D. by Muhammad which would later become a dominant faith in much of the world alongside Christianity. Of course, movies about Muhammad will never show him in accordance with Islamic custom. Still, this area was a great place of civilization while the Europe was being beseiged by German invaders but it has become a shithole in modern times (well, by our standards). Still, here is a list of errors I shall list from movies set in the Middle East post-biblical times.

Islam:

The crescent moon and star was a Muslim symbol from the Crusades. (It wasn’t adopted until the 14th century. During that time, Muslims armies would usually carry black, green, and white flags.)

Mullahs wore Quran inscriptions on their clothes. (Islam forbids writing Quran verses or “Allah” on clothing but permits it on flags.)

Muslim women wore transparent headscarves. (See through headscarves are forbidden in Islam.)

Muslim women were treated as objects, confined to their homes, and serve their men. Not to mention, there weren’t many notable Muslim women. (Actually though Muslim women didn’t have as many rights as men but not all Muslim women were harem girls, princesses, or housewives and they weren’t really considered as property. They also had more property rights than other women during the Middle Ages and could inherit and earn money. They had rights to be educated and even teach. They also had a right not to be punished if she had been raped and was permitted to kill her rapist should the creep go after her again. Female infanticide was banned as well. As for notable Muslim women, there were a lot of women in Islam who made considerable contributions. There’s a women who started the nursing profession in the Middle East, a woman who founded a university, one of Muhammad’s wives was a businesswoman, two others were scholars, one a poet, and another a nurse, a couple women were war leaders, and some were regents and queens. Also, before Islam, many women in the region had no legal status at all and were considered proper and many of Muslim women had their rights constrained more by tribal custom than Sharia Law.)

Muslims address their god as “Father.” (They use “Allah.”)

Byzantine Empire:

The last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI was a hedonist. (He was celibate.)

In 1453, Constantinople was a magnificent city. (It had been far from it, especially since it was sacked by the Crusaders in 1204.)

In 1453, the Byzantine Empire was one of wealth and power whose rulers lived in decadence and luxury. (This wasn’t really the case since it had been on a long and drastic decline since the Middle Ages.)

The Byzantine Emperor resided in the Great Palace in 1453. (The Great Palace wasn’t in use at this time.)

Giovanni Giustiniani was killed in a single combat while defending the walls of Constantinople from the Ottoman Turks. (He was wounded by cannon or crossbow bolt. He died of the effects later in June 1453.)

Pre-Islamic:

The Pre-Islamic Sassinid Persians wrote in Arab script. (The Sasssinid Empire predates Muhammad.)

The Hashashins were a sect of crazed and chaotic assassins that resided in the city of Alamut and a vizier named Nizam was the very first man they killed, which was during the Sassinid Empire. (Yes, but their presence in history begins as an esoteric Islamic cult -an offshoot of the Isma’ili sect of Shia’ Islam and they were seen as protectors of the Nizari in other communities as well. Oh, yeah, and their existence began during the Crusades and were even allies of the Crusaders {since they had common enemies}. Also, they were said to be quite friendly towards the common folk since their killings were carefully targeted and planned. However, there’s no evidence whether they drugged their recruits with marijuana {well, other than for medicinal purposes}. Not to mention, they met their downfall during the Mongol conquest of Persia.)

Golden Age:

Saladin’s was the Islamic leader’s original name. (It was actually his nickname by the Christians. His actual name was Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub.)

Saladin snuck into a Christian camp to cure Richard the Lionheart. (He would’ve done no such thing.)

Saladin was an honorable man. (By the standards of the day, sure. Yet, he only behaved this way when it suited him. Once he had 200 Knight Templars and Hospitallers executed by Sufis and Islamic scholars {who were unfamiliar with weapons}, which led to a clumsy and agonizing death to many prisoners. Not to mention, he intended to sack Jerusalem but didn’t when Balian threatened to destroy Islamic holy sites and execute thousands of Muslim prisoners. Also, before beginning his conquest in Jerusalem, he put down a Sudanese revolt in Egypt by burning down their Cairo quarter with their women and children still inside their homes. After the Sudanese troops surrendered, he promised them safe passage up the Nile only to have them massacred when leaving Cairo in smaller disorganized groups.)

Saladin was a well-known figure in Middle Eastern history who was willing to negotiate with the Christians and was respected by both sides. (Until the late 19th century he was mostly forgotten figure in the Muslim World because the empire he created barely outlived him and the fact that he was a Kurd. Also, modern lionization of him flows from the Europeans.)

Saladin knew nothing about the existence of ice prior to the Crusades. (The people in the Middle East knew well of the existence of ice and used it in drinks. Also, Saladin is known to give King Guy Lusignan ice water at the battle of Hattin, which led to the killing of Chatillon.)

Sultans were usually idiots who were only preoccupied with their toys and harem girls while the evil Grand Vizier basically ran everything. (History tells us that this wasn’t true part of the time and Grand Viziers weren’t always evil either.)

Grand Vizier Ja’far ibn Yahya of the Barmakids was a powerful and evil Grand Vizier. (He could possibly be the greatest Grand Vizier Persia had ever had. He was also a polymath who sponsored building libraries and introduced the use of paper in Baghdad {which helped start the Golden Age of Islam}. Unfortunately, because many film Grand Viziers tend to be named Jafar in movies {who are evil}; his name will live in infamy. He’s seen as a bad guy in Sunni tradition as well as an inspiration for villains. The fact he was depicted as evil in some of the Arabian Night Tales is that his boss Caliph Harun al-Rashid killed him and his family because Jafar allegedly had an affair with the Caliph’s sister Abbasa {though it had more to do with Harun fearing that the Barmakids had become too influential for their own good. I mean why execute a right-hand man and his entire family for shagging a Caliph’s sister?})

Arabs in the early Islamic era used curved swords. (Curved swords are Turkish {and wouldn’t be used until the Turks arrived from Central Asia} not Arab. They’d more likely use straight swords at the time.)

Arabian princesses were only children. (Jasmine probably wouldn’t be the only female member of the sultan’s family living in the palace and most definitely had other brothers and half-brothers vying for the throne so Aladdin probably wouldn’t become sultan anyway.)

Arabs sold tomatoes in their marketplaces during the 13th century. (Tomatoes are a New World plant and wouldn’t be known to anyone in the Old World until at least the 15th century.)

The Arabs knew of the existence of gunpowder in the 1100s. (It wasn’t known to the Arabs until at least 1240.)

Caliph Harun al-Rashid was a loveable adventurer who traveled in and out cities in disguise as well as led a great empire. (Sure he’d go in and out of cities in disguises nor was he an extraordinarily bad ruler {dates are from 786-809, which means he ruled a good twenty-three years}.  He killed Grand Vizier Jafar and his entire family, which led to a political crisis taking years to resolve.  He wasn’t an extraordinarily good ruler either and is usually depicted in the Arabian Night Tales as good guy because of the greatness of his empire {which was due to the efforts of many} not the man himself. Still, he was good to his workers except maybe his right hand man as well as attracted poets. Yet, in Hollywood, he’s played by Rock Hudson.)

Omar Khayyam romanced a sultan’s bride and saved a sultan’s son from an assassin sect. (Sure he was a poet and invented a calendar, but it’s highly unlikely that he’d thwart assassins or romance a sultan’s bride. Also, I’m not sure if Persia even has sultans.)

Ottoman Empire:

All Ottoman Army soldiers were Turkish Muslims. (The Ottoman Army was very diverse which included Balkan converts to Islam, Christian levies, and armies of the sultan’s Christian vassals.)

Sultan Mehmet entered Constantinople right after it was sacked by his army. (He entered three days after the looting of his army.)

Modern:

Shah Reza Pahlavi was a corrupt, uncaring fool who tried to escape his country to avoid Iranian civilians. (Sure he was a dictator but he also tried to grant equal rights for women and modernize Iran’s economy.)

Shah Reza Pahlavi was installed as Shah of Iran in the 1953 coup by the UK and the CIA. (He was already Shah at the time of the coup. The coup began when the Shah dismissed Prime Minister Mohammmad Mossadegh and replaced him with Fazlollah Zahedi.)

During the Iranian hostage crisis, both British and New Zealand embassies refused to help American embassy staff. (Contrary to Argo, they sheltered Americans before passing them to the Canadians. The British ambassador in Iran at the time was commended for his actions.)

It was through the help of Congressman Charlie Wilson that the Afghans were able to drive the Russians out of their country. (It was also through the help of Charlie Wilson that some of these Afghan freedom fighter who received American weapons helped launched al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which also led to 9/11.)

Getting the US Embassy hostages out of Iran was mostly an American effort. (Actually the Canadians {90% of the time} and the British helped, too, a lot. As for the airport scene in Argo, well, the Canadians actually bought the tickets well ahead of time and the escape went off without a hitch.)

The Israeli government used “an eye for an eye” retaliation with a hit list of eleven suspects after the 1972 Olympics Massacre in Munich. (The events in Munich relating to anything other than the killing of Israeli athletes in Munich has been subject to much controversy. Also, there’s no way of knowing whether the Eric Bana character was a reliable source of information.)

Giving weapons it Middle Eastern nations always worked out in the end. (Yeah right.)

The US has always been able to solve Mideast problems. (Sometimes it has made the whole situation worse.)

It wasn’t unusual for Mossad agents to have any doubts hunting down the Munich assassins. (It may be difficult to establish but according to author Aaron J. Klein, “”In interviewing more than 50 veterans of the Mossad and military intelligence, I found not a single trace of remorse. On the contrary, the Mossad combatants thought they were doing holy work.” Then again, they could be trying to come to terms with what they did. But of course, there’s the blunder of mistakenly shooting a Moroccan waiter in Norway thinking he was a Black September mastermind named Ali Hassan Salameh. Six Israelis were arrested while five were convicted. Spielberg doesn’t include this in Munich.)

There were 53 American hostages during the Iranian hostage crisis. (There were 53 hostages that were held until the end in 1981. Also, they were released in January of 1980, not March.)

Saddam Hussein’s name struck fear into the Iraqi people. (To tell you the truth, there are plenty of people in the Middle East {including Iraq} that carry the name of Saddam Hussein. It’s very common in the region. It’s just that the Saddam Hussein who ruled Iraq for over 2 decades managed to attract notoriety to be in the Western news media. Not to mention, Arabic names are very long as Saddam Hussein’s real name is Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti.)

Middle Eastern and Islamic Life:

All Muslim terrorists were violent Islamic extremists. (Sure there is religious terrorism in every religion and Islam is no exception but there are also Muslim terrorists whose motivations are purely political and not all violence is religiously motivated either even to Westerners.)

Muslim countries were usually ruled under theocrats or strongmen dictators. (There are plenty of Muslim nations that have fully functioning democracies or at least most of the time. Nevertheless, there was very little separation of church and state in the early Islamic era because much of the state structures derived from it.)

Most Muslims were Arabs. (Actually Muslims are a very diverse group consisting of Asians, Eastern Europeans, Central Asians, Indians, and Africans. Not to mention, the biggest Muslim nation in the world is Indonesia, and many people from the Middle East and North Africa don’t consider themselves Arabs even though they’re Muslims and speak Arabic.)

The Harem consisted of the sultan’s love nest where he was feted on by his beautiful concubines. (Sultans did have concubines but that was more for ensuring the birth of competent sons than fulfilling sexual pleasure. And for the sultan, monogamy wasn’t optional for the notion of having multiple sex partners was part of the job. The harem wasn’t just home to his concubines either but also his family along with female servants who weren’t very attractive and eunuchs. Most of the women consisted of the sultan’s older female relatives. Also, the women there weren’t just lounging around all day either. Sure the sultan did have a lot of women to sleep with but the Harem wasn’t the Islamic version of the Playboy Mansion as depicted by Hollywood. As for odalisques, they were servants to the older inhabitants, not concubines and most of them were left to wither on the branch due to the sultan being too old, too drunk, or too disinterested to make use of them.)

Muslims were cruel to their slaves. (Actually they treated their slaves better than the Europeans and Americans treated theirs {in some ways though sometimes they could be cruel to them}. For one, they didn’t use slavery to subjugate a whole race of people. Second, slaves actually had certain rights that slaves in the West didn’t have. Third, slavery in the Muslim world was more or less like indentured servitude than the kind of slavery we’re familiar with since there were more ways for a slave to gain his or her freedom.)

Sultans usually had dark hair. (Because of the Ottoman sultans’ preference for Eastern European women in their harems, there’s a good chance that a sultan would have blond or red hair as well as European features.)

It wasn’t unusual for an Islamic ruler to offer his daughters to marry a man of a different religion. (While Islam allows men to marry up to four wives and concubinage, it doesn’t allow men to marry two closely related women at the same time. Also, Muslim women can’t marry guys of a different faith than their own, if the guy doesn’t agree to convert. Muslim men, on the other hand, can marry women outside their faith though.)

Muslims have been hostile to those outside their religion. (Well, occasionally but during much of Islamic history they’ve been pretty tolerant of other religions {for they sometimes had to be and to a certain extent}. For instance, Muslim Spain was a haven for Jews during much of the Middle Ages. Not to mention, many of the non-Islamic invaders actually ended up adopting and expanding the religion throughout Asia {which actually brought the end of Christianity in Central Asia}. Still, they wouldn’t kill Christians unless they absolutely had to. Also, many Muslim nations have a significant population of Christians today like Lebanon and Egypt.)

People in the Islamic Middle East actually wore turbans, harem pants, sheikh outfits, and Jasmine set up. (We’re not sure what people in the Middle East wore during that time period. though we’re kind of sure about the turbans and veils. Also, Aladdin caused a lot of controversy among Muslims. Then again, movies set in the era of genies and flying carpets tend to consist of people dressed in a mishmash of Islamic clothing anyway.)

Every old time Mideast ruler was a sultan. (Some were caliphs. Also, in Persia, the old rulers didn’t go by sultan.)

The Muslims were a radical and fanatical sect. (There have been plenty of Islamic notables who contributed a lot to science, medicine, architecture, and mathematics. They also helped translate Greek Classics as well as had institutions of learning.)