By Laila Alawa: Laila Alawa is a Muslim feminist, writer and cultural critic who has been published at The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Patheos, The Islamic Monthly, and serves as the founder and editor of Coming of Faith. She’s previously worked at Princeton University conducting a study on Muslim American perceptions of belonging.
If you’re Pamela Geller, Bill Maher or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, then you’re most likely obsessed with stereotyping them, stirring fears about them and making blanket statements about a rather large and varied group of people.
And if you look to the mainstream media, it might be easy to see why this oversimplified version of Islam persists: Particularly after 9/11, Islam is usually coupled in coverage with references to terror attacks and political groups, as well as ridiculous calls on Muslims to apologize for terror attacks (as if there’s a spokesperson).
While terrorism in the name of Islam is an unfortunate reality of today’s world, it is ignorant to paint all Muslims — more than one billion people — with the same brush.
Muslims come from all walks of life all over the world and perhaps it is time to understand what that really looks like. Here are 50 facts about Muslims today that show that it’s not just offensive but also inaccurate to assume that all Muslims are the same.
1. Worldwide, there are 1.6 billion Muslims. That number is expected to increase by 35% in the next 16 years, rising to 2.2 billion in 2030.
2. Sixty-two percent of the world’s Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region and only 20% live in the Middle East and North Africa.
3. Even though Indonesia boasts the world’s largest population of Muslims right now, Pakistan is expected to surpass that number in the coming years.
4. Most Muslims aren’t actually Arab. In fact, fewer than 15% of the world’s Muslims are Arab.
5. America comes in 84th place in a global ranking of women elected to government cabinet positions. It comes after Muslim-majority nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
6. Edible Arrangements, with 74 locations in the U.S., was founded by Tariq Farid, a Muslim American entrepreneur.
7. The fastest-growing religion in Ireland is Islam.
8. Malaysian pop star Yuna has garnered fans from across the globe and the talented singer is taking the U.S. music industry by storm.
9. Zaytuna College is the first liberal arts college built on Islamic principles and it’s located in Berkeley, Calif. Its first-ever class just graduated.
10. The world’s youngest female president, Atifete Jahjaga, is the current leader of Kosovo and her country’s first female Muslim president.