If all you know about Islam is that women of the faith wear headscarves, then you’re in for a pretty big surprise!

We’re talking about a world religion here, which for centuries contributed to art, philosophy, law and other areas of life just as much as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Yet some people in Europe still refuse to educate themselves and stick to the stereotype of terrorism and subjugation. Needless to say, this is wrong.

The Veil: While dressing modestly is a requirement of the Islamic faith – much like in the Christian faith, really – the veil is not a religious requirement. It is, rather a cultural tradition of certain regions – and very diverse at that. Just like a Christian person who moves to another country can continue wearing a cross around their neck, or a Maltese person can stick to cooking imqarrun il-forn, some – but not all – Muslim women choose to wear the veil as per tradition even when they’re not in their country of birth. Just looking at the veil, without knowing the woman, you have no idea whether it was a choice or an obligation for her.

Science: When in the year 1085 Alfonso VI of Castile and León took flourishing Toledo from the Muslim Moors, educated Europeans flooded to the city and its legendary libraries. Indeed, it was the Moors who reintroduced us to the teachings of Aristotle, who gave us words like ‘algebra’, ‘alchemy’ and ‘alcohol’. The numerical system we use today is also their invention. Thanks to recapturing of Toledo, knowledge in Western Europe advanced by a 1,000 years in less than a century.

The Quran: Many people assume that the Quran is a book that incites violence, yet when software engineer Tom Anderson ran a scientific test, he discovered that killing and destruction are referenced in 5.3% of the Old Testament, 2.8% in the New Testament and 2.1% of the Quran. I’ll leave that to you to figure out.

The Crusades: The series of religiously inspired wars that took place between the 11th and 13th centuries are often considered to be some of the most glorious in European warfare, particularly the First Crusade, during which Jerusalem was captured. As we all know, however, history books are written by the victorious, or in this case, by those whose voices were allowed to be heard. The Crusades in the Middle East are still viewed as some of the most barbaric wars in their history. Indeed, the fact that Muslims living in Jerusalem at the time were locked in a temple and burnt alive is as much part of their collective history as crucified knights floating into Valletta’s Grand Harbour during the Great Siege of Malta is in ours.

World Religion: Today, there are about 1.7 billion people in the world who follow the Islamic faith. While the media is quick to mention a crime perpetrator’s religion when he happens to be Muslim, millions of Muslims continue to go about their daily lives – perhaps even in your neighbourhood. The problem here is simple: when a Christian does something, it’s called a lone wolf’s crime; when a Muslim does the same thing, it’s called terrorism.

When we educate ourselves about history and other cultures, we see that living side-by-side with other religions is not scary after all.

Did any of these facts surprise you?