Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Islam Today | Al-Risala August, 1987
When Cat Stevens, the well-known English pop-singer, was studying Islam, he was told, “By all means study Islam, but do not, for the sake of God, study Muslims.” He does not, however, seem to have been deterred by this paradoxical and clearly discouraging statement, for he finally embraced Islam in 1977 in a London Mosque, taking the name of Yusuf Islam.
His views on this paradox were brought out in an interview which was published in the May-June 1980 issue of the London monthly, Muslim. Asked what he thought would be a solution to the constant tirade of propaganda against Islam in the English press, he replied, “People are not such simpletons that they would believe everything that is published in the newspapers. People do form their own opinions. However, if they found Muslims indulging in such evils as are mentioned, then it is quite possible that they would give credence to newspaper reports.”
Facts are facts, but newspaper reporting does not necessarily do them justice. It is, therefore, up to the Muslims to demonstrate that their way of life belies the image projected by the media. No intelligent reader will then give any serious attention to what in reality are clear distortions of the truth. If, for instance, it was reported in the newspapers that the illiteracy rate is the highest among the Christians, that beggars are the greatest in number among the Parsis and that the Sikhs are the timidest, then readers would simply dismiss these statements as the crassest idiocy for they are so obviously contrary to known facts.
If the Muslims’ conduct is good, deprecating remarks about Islam will fall on stony ground. When people find from their own experience that the Muslims deal justly with others, refusing to be provoked at every turn, that they honour the life and property of other human beings and that, above all, they are great seekers after the truth, they will attach no importance to adverse statements in the press. They will consider such reports baseless and will not even read beyond the heading.