Islam is one of the major world religions believed to have its roots in the prophet Muhammad. He said to have received revelations from God through angel Gabriel. Islam has grown rapidly and the presence of those who profess this faith can be seen in many countries. The religion is known for its strict sharpie laws derived from their Holy Book, the Koran.
These laws deal with all spheres of life and hence become the foundation of how the followers of this religion should live their daily lives. Issues about family relations, prayers, and other important issues touching on life are addressed in the Koran.
The description of customary practices within the culture
It is not possible to separate Islam as a religion and the way one who professes the faith lives because it has been said to be a way of life. This is because the religion stipulates the basics of how one should live from birth, throughout life and even the rites accompanying death. The following are examples of customary practices within the Islamic culture.
The birth of a child is usually a happy occasion for the family and the child is considered a gift from God. There are laws governing the naming of a child depending on the sex of the child. A male child for example should be given a name that shows dedication to God or one of the messengers of God. Names of friends the founder of this religion, Prophet Muhammad may also be used. For a female child, the names of women who appear in the Holy Book or those of the Prophet’s family members may be used (Huda, 2011).
Issues related to courtship and marriage is also addressed. Choosing a person to marry is taken as a very serious decision which requires a lot of prayer and to an extent the contribution of the family members. This is because the marriage is considered to be a very important unit in the society.
Marriage can therefore be possible only between two people professing this religion. Inter-faith marriages are not allowed but there is an exception. A Muslim man is at times allowed to marry a religious and devout Christian or a Jew but a Muslim woman is not. If any man wishes to marry a Muslim woman, he must first convert to the religion. A Muslim husband is supposed to supply all basic needs of the family.
The importance of education is also emphasized. Education is normally seen as an important aspect in life everyone is entitled to. The parents therefore are left with the decision to educate their children to highest level possible because it is seen as a process that continues throughout life. It is common for a majority of Muslims to also learn Arabic. This is because Muslims find themselves using this language when it comes to prayer times and reading of Koran.
There are also restrictions as to what is lawful to eat and drink and what is unlawful. The Muslims are allowed to eat and drink all things with the exceptions of what has been said to be unlawful by God. These include pork and alcohol. Dead animals are also prohibited.
The mode of slaughter of an animal also determines whether a Muslim is allowed to eat that particular meat or not. This is because they believe in the invoking of God’s name in recognition of how sacred life is during slaughter and that they are only doing so because God has allowed them (Huda, 2011)
Improper mode of dressing is totally prohibited especially among women. Being appropriately dressed is not optional but a requirement for both men and women. Women are supposed to cover their entire body. They are also not allowed to wear tight clothing which shows the shape of their body. Transparent clothes are also prohibited among the Muslims. Clothes also meant to draw a lot of attention for example very shiny ones are not allowed. One is generally supposed to be decent.
The culture’s portrayal in the media and its effect
The media has had a significant role to play concerning the portrayal of the Islamic culture. The picture the media paints of this culture is mostly a negative one. This is because it is portrayed as being a culture of terrorism and of people who are involved with activities that cause disturbance of peace. This has happened partly due to lack of enough information about Islam and partly due to lack of tolerance of this religion. This explains why many people have a negative opinion about this religion (Anser, 1995).
Many people rely on the media for information about many things and especially concerning the events taking place in the world. When the media, therefore presents any kind of information about Islam to those who know little or nothing at all about the religion, it is considered to be the truth. The report about Islam in the media has been predominantly that of people who are ready to fight and the concept of Jihad has more often been blown out of proportion (Anser, 1995).
The truth, however, is that Muslims are not allowed to initiate war by attacking their rivals but are only allowed to fight for self-defense or when defending their religion. The issue of portraying Islam as a ‘fighting’ religion has therefore been there because of ignorance of those reporting for the different media houses. The Holy Book used by the Muslims, the Koran, promotes peaceful coexistence among people (Akel, n.d).
Another area of misrepresentation of the Islamic culture is concerning the position and rights of women. The media depicts the women in this culture as oppressed and undermined and the men ruling over them with harsh rules and regulations. The religion has been considered to be male dominated due to the media’s incorrect reports.
The truth however is that the existing laws in this culture concerning women are not oppressive and if correctly applied, they are designed to liberate women instead of enslaving them. Wearing modest clothes for example is to their advantage because it prevents the women from unnecessary attention from men which may results to rape cases.
There has also been a challenge for the media reporters to differentiate between Islam as a religion and the political situation of most Islamic countries, in many cases what happens in these countries has been interpreted as being synonymous with what is acceptable in the religion. When there are cases of war and other bloody scenes in the countries with large Muslim populations, it is commonly seen as a religious act because this is the portrayal of the media (Akel, n.d).
People in Islamic countries have also been portrayed as illiterate and the religion as being a hindrance to acquiring education. This is not true because the right to education is granted by the Koran. The choice therefore whether to get educated or not to lies solely in an individual.
How to overcome misperceptions of other cultures by criminal justice professionals
Misperceptions and stereotypes when interacting with other cultures are not uncommon. This problem can be solved through several ways especially among the criminal justice professionals. Since media is a powerful tool of conveying important information to the public, it can be used as a tool for correcting the misperceptions about diverse cultures and especially the Islamic culture. This is as a result of the leading role it has played in the misrepresentation of the same.
Proper and accurate information about any given culture is important before any media house reports anything about the culture. This helps solve the problems of half truths or lies spread about a certain culture by the media due to ignorance or being biased towards a given culture as has happened with the Islamic culture (Esposito, 1992).
There should be enough training and literature materials given to the criminal justice professionals to help them understand and also interpret to the public the difference between Islamic culture and political occurrences in Islamic states. This also helps solve the problem of viewing everyone professing this faith as a terrorist.
Effective strategies for working and interacting with members of other cultures
Since there are many cultural groups in then world, it is important for people to learn effective strategies for working and interacting with members of other cultures. One important strategy is to develop tolerance to other cultures. This helps one to bear with aspects of the other culture which may not be found in one’s culture. When this happens, peaceful coexistence is promoted.
Another way is trying to understand the other cultures in depth to avoid half truths or complete lack of knowledge about the culture, this also helps someone to correct any prejudices and stereotypes held against a given culture due to ignorance. This way, people from different cultural groups are able to live harmoniously.
Influential groups like the media can also help correct any false beliefs about a certain culture after they (the media) have had accurate information about the culture and report issues without being biased. This is because most people rely on the media for information and therefore any wrong information about a particular culture misleads a majority of people who may not have another way of accessing the truth (Esposito, 1992).
Reflection on the personal impact of the assignment
Through this assignment, I have realized how easy it is to be prejudiced against certain cultures we know little or nothing at all about. In the case of Islamic culture, I have learnt a lot about their customary laws and other misperceptions about the religion. The stereotypes concerning Islam have therefore been replaced by the truth of what actually Islam is about.
The importance of valuing cultural diversity and seeing the beauty of these diversities has also been learnt. Those of other cultures should therefore, not be viewed as enemies to be destroyed but we should seek to understand them and try to promote harmonious coexistence.
Cultural diversity is present everywhere in the world and should not be used as an excuse for causing chaos in any part of the world. People should try to learn how to live peacefully with others despite their cultural and other diverse differences.
It is only this way that incidents of cultural prejudices and stereotypes will reduce and more productivity be seen in places where there are many people of different cultures living together. This is especially important when dealing with the people of the Islamic faith which has been misrepresented.
Akel, B. (n.d). Islam for today: Islam and the Western Media. Retrieved on 7 April, 2011 from
Anser, H. (1995). Invitation to Islam: Islamic Stereotypes in Western Mass Media. Retrieved on 7 April, 2011 from
Esposito, J. (1992). The Islamic threat: Myth or reality. New York, NY. Oxford University Press.
Huda, D. (2011). Islamic Living: Guide to Islam. New York: About.com. Retrieved On 7 April, 2011 from