John Emery Speaks on the Misconceptions of Islam

Alexa Jokinen

Last Thursday evening, John Emery, a Muslim representative for the Islamic Resource Group, came to St. Scholastica to discuss the Islamic religion and the common misconceptions about Islam in the United States.

Emery grew up as a Catholic with a desire to serve his country in the United States Army. One task he faced was learning Arabic. Emery worked for nine years as a translator and interrogator for the United States Army. After working with Muslims, his interest in Islam started to grow. Years later, Emery decided to convert to the Islamic faith.

At the start of his presentation, Emery encompassed his entire discussion on Islam with one word. “Salam is the Arabic word for peace,” he said. “The ultimate goal is peace in the world.”
Emery explained how peace was the basis of the Islamic faith, yet in the United States, there is a large misconception that Muslims and the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book, are tied to violence.
“The Islamic faith is all about peace, so it is very confusing to explain how or why people think violence is linked to Islam and Muslims,” he said.

Because he is a Muslim convert, Emery explained how he has not faced much discrimination personally. Many times, converts do not look like the “typical Muslim” seen in discriminatory news stories and do not face the same amount of discrimination.

Another misconception Emery evaluated was the forced conversion that is rumored to happen among members of the Islamic faith. References from Emery’s presentation directly challenge this idea of forced conversion.

“Anyone who can become a Muslim, can become one. I chose to be a Muslim because it brings me peace in my life,” said Emery.

After listening to the lecture, students were eager to share their opinions.

“This lecture was very interesting because we got to learn what the Islamic faith actually is. I wish I could learn more,” said junior Daniela Abramo Rojas.

“I think it was a great lecture. We have to understand that not all Muslims are from the Middle East, and most of them are from Southeast Asia,” said sophomore Phillisha Cham.

As misconceptions of Islam are once again on the rise, students were pushed evaluate where these misconceptions are coming from and question who could benefit from a lecture similar to Emery’s.

“This lecture can apply to anyone who is curious to learn about religion. If people would actually come and learn about it, it could be really useful,” said Abramo Rojas.