If you’re Pamela Geller, Bill 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Laila Alawa is a Muslim feminist, writer and cultural critic who has been published at The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Patheos, The Islamic Monthly, and serves as the founder and editor of Coming of Faith. She’s previously worked at Princeton…