I was raised as a muslim, this is what I was taught:

While I do not practice Islam daily, it was highly influential on my upbringing. In today’s climate, I think it is important to share what mainstream muslims look like. This is what I was taught..

1) Compassion and love are primary. The words “in the name of God most compassionate and merciful” precede EVERY PRAYER in the Koran. For all of history there have been nut jobs out there that try to rewrite and twist every book of power, which is probably why these words are written hundreds of times throughout the Koran — to keep that message of love central.

2) Honor Mohammad (peace be upon him) AND Jesus (peace be upon him) as prophets, but regard them as humans like you and me.

Unlike Buddhism and Hinduism, Islam is a cousin of Christianity. The Koran is a continuation of the Bible and its central motive — the way I and millions of others were taught — is to respectfully move past the way Christianity and Catholicism idolize some people as divine (Jesus, saints, bishops, etc). That’s why it forbids people from making statues and drawings of people to worship. The idea is to take personal responsibility for the power within all of us.

As a muslim I was taught you can’t just say “I’m only human, I’m not divine, I can’t be as loving as Christ”. It is on you to walk the path of love. No excuses.

3) Love is within you and meditation is how you connect with God. That’s why practicing Muslims pray 5 times a day. Namas (prayer) is similar to the yoga sun salutation but modified for the young, sick and elderly. It’s about making space in your day to meditate and reflect and connect your mind, body and spirit. At the end you turn to the person on your left and right and send them your respect and love.

4) Yes, women are to cover their hair for modesty when praying. Everyone washes their hands, feet and face before prayer too. Some women cover their hair all the time of course but that’s ONLY IF their family prefers it. It’s not required and it’s usually a way of honoring your identity — similar to how Christians wear crosses. Sure there are more macho homes too where the women stay home but that happens in all cultures.

In my home and the homes of all of our cousins and family friends, the most important rule for boys & girls was “get good grades”. That went for me and my brother and my three sisters.

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The alt-right media has magnified fringe versions of Islam by promoting the false claims of deluded terrorists who think they represent Islam. There are literally billions of muslims on earth — if most of us were killers the world would be massacred by now.

It is true that some Muslims live in places like Saudi Arabia where our sisters are treated like property. But Muslims who come to the United States choose to come here because this is a society where we are free to be our best version of ourselves.

If you see a woman in danger — Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, atheist, whatever — please, treat her as your sister, with love.

May we love each other.