50 Actual Facts That Challenge What You've Been Told About Muslims

50 Actual Facts That Challenge What You've Been Told About Muslims
Source: AP
Source: AP

Muslims. 

If you're Pamela GellerBill 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.


Image Credit: AP

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 close to 1,200 locations worldwide, 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.


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

11. A counterpart to the Miss World pageant, Miss World Muslimah, held annually, judges participants from around the world on piety, smarts, health, beauty and ability to be role models. Last year, a contestant from Nigeria won.

12. Many modern surgical instruments are of exactly the same design as those invented in the 10th century by a Muslim surgeon called al-Zahrawi.

13. The first Muslim to reach outer space, in 1985, shattered a few stereotypes: He was a Saudi sultan.

14. In 2006, the first Muslim woman made it to space — and she was the first Iranian female space tourist.

15. Laleh Baktiar wanted to clear up gender misconceptions that appeared in previous translations of the Quran, so in 2007 she became the first woman to translate the Quran into English.

16. At 20 years old, Iqbal Al Assaad is the youngest medical doctor. She graduated from high school at 12.

17. The Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago was designed by a Muslim American architect.


Image Credit: AP

18. In the UK, Muslims are the country's top charitable donors.

19. In fact, Muslims give the most out of the world's religions.

20. Bollywood's biggest maestro, A.R. Rahman, converted to Islam in 2006.

21. The pioneer behind microcredit and microfinance, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that year too.

22. Muslims are Happy in the UK, Gaza, Istanbul, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan.


23. The name "Muhammad" is the most common name in the world.

24. Shirin Ebadi, Iran's first female Chief Justice, was the first Muslim woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


Image Credit: AP 

25. Some researchers argue that Muslims came to the Americas before Christopher Columbus, in the 700s.

26. The world's second-largest Muslim congregation is the Bishwa Ijtema, which gathers in Bangladesh. The largest is the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.


Image Credit: AP

27. America's most popular food cart in 2013, with almost 50,000 Foursquare check-ins, is The Halal Guys in New York City.

28. The global Muslim fashion industry is estimated to be worth $96 billion dollars.

29. This has meant a surge in Muslim female designers and entrepreneurs globally have ensured a thriving hijab (Muslim headscarf) fashion market.


Image Credit: AP

30. The show Little Mosque on the Prairie was the first to show a balanced representation of a dysfunctional Muslim community in Canada. We're still waiting on a similar show in the U.S.

31. There's an increasing market for meat that's both halal and organic

32. UMMA Clinic, the first Muslim-American-founded community-based clinic in the U.S., provides health care and treatment to all and was started by medical students.

33. Muslim women from countries like the U.S. and Bahrain have competed in the Olympics, taking part in competitions like tennis, fencing, taekwondo and archery.


Image Credit: AP

34. Dr. Oz not only has our hearts with his medical advice, but he's a Turkish-American Muslim too.

35. Shaquille O'Neal announced he was going on the Muslim pilgrimage in 2010.

36. And let's not forget Akon or T-Pain, who came from Muslim families.

37. Coffee was a Muslim invention.

38. So was the modern check.

39. The thing that makes selfies possible was invented by Muslims, too.

40. Albania is the only European country whose population is more than 90% Muslim.

41. Pakistani youth decided to break a Guinness world record in 2014 by forming the world's largest human national flag. By official count, 28,597 people showed up to take part.


Image Credit: Getty Images

42. Muslims have been living in China for the last 1,400 years. They live in every region of the country.

43. Amid distrust for Muslims and Islam, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington argued that America should be open to Muslim citizens, office-holders and even presidents.

44. The new Ms. Marvel is a Pakistani-American teenager from New Jersey — and she isn't afraid of her identity.


Image Credit: AP

45. Hijab isn't something all Muslim women wear and it certainly doesn't define them.

46. Everyone's favorite singalong, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, includes the word "Bismillah", Arabic for "In the Name of God."

47. Ten percent of all American doctors are Muslim. That's beside the fact that the hospital is the invention of Muslim-majority nation Egypt.

48. Ann Osman is the first female Muslim pro MMA fighter.

49. In China, the oldest all-female mosque has existed for the last thousand years — and the leader is a woman too.

50. This should be obvious by now: Muslims aren't monolithic.

Correction, 05/20/2014:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Freddie Mercury was Indian Muslim. Mercury was actually Indian Parsi, a Zoroastrian group that fled 10th century Iran to practice their religion freely.

Correction, 05/21/2014:

An earlier version of this article said that Edible Arrangements has 74 locations in the U.S. In actuality the company has almost 1,200 stores worldwide.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Laila Alawa

Laila Alawa is the CEO and founder of The Tempest, a leading media company by diverse millennial women, for the world. With more than half a million monthly visitors, the site covers everything from life to humor, entertainment to news. She is also the host for The Expose, a weekly podcast tackling tough topics with snark and wit. Her work has been mentioned in The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, Mashable, Color Lines, Bustle, Feministing, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. She's also appeared on Al-Jazeera America, BBC World News, NPR, and Huffington Post Live. In 2015, Laila was named an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow.

MORE FROM

Baton Rouge police chief resigns after a year of political turmoil over Alton Sterling shooting

Baton Rouge's mayor had campaigned on a promise to replace the city's police chief, in the wake of Alton Sterling's shooting death.

‘Whose Streets?’ film highlights Ferguson activists’ battle with the trauma of protests

Brittany Ferrell, an organizer of the Ferguson Uprising, says a new documentary about Black Lives Matter protests shows why activists should be more intentional about checking in on each other.

Minneapolis police chief resigns after fatal shooting of Australian woman

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau announced in a Facebook post that she is stepping aside.

Mentally ill prisoners in Louisiana forced to bark like dogs for food, lawsuit claims

Investigators came. Everyone was told not to speak to them.

Philando Castile’s mother supports Justine Damond’s family at march in Minneapolis

"We're just here to support the family," she said. "That's all."

Lawyer says Justine Damond is “most innocent” police shooting victim he’s ever seen

Observers were quick to point out that several black children have been killed by police.

Baton Rouge police chief resigns after a year of political turmoil over Alton Sterling shooting

Baton Rouge's mayor had campaigned on a promise to replace the city's police chief, in the wake of Alton Sterling's shooting death.

‘Whose Streets?’ film highlights Ferguson activists’ battle with the trauma of protests

Brittany Ferrell, an organizer of the Ferguson Uprising, says a new documentary about Black Lives Matter protests shows why activists should be more intentional about checking in on each other.

Minneapolis police chief resigns after fatal shooting of Australian woman

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau announced in a Facebook post that she is stepping aside.

Mentally ill prisoners in Louisiana forced to bark like dogs for food, lawsuit claims

Investigators came. Everyone was told not to speak to them.

Philando Castile’s mother supports Justine Damond’s family at march in Minneapolis

"We're just here to support the family," she said. "That's all."

Lawyer says Justine Damond is “most innocent” police shooting victim he’s ever seen

Observers were quick to point out that several black children have been killed by police.