The more you know!
Islam is often characterized as a violent, misogynistic faith. And while there are certainly violent misogynists who are also Muslim, they don't speak for the faith as a whole (the same way the KKK doesn't speak for all Christians). In fact, the tenets of Islam oppose violence and cruelty.
1. Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews.
Islam emerged from Christianity so these faiths have a lot in common (in the Qu'ran, Jesus is considered a prophet, and not the son of God). They are all Abrahamic religions, because they trace their origins to Abraham.
2. Women have many rights in Islamic law.
And this was incredibly progressive when the message was delivered in 610. Marriage is expected to be mutually beneficial, women have the right to choose their own husband, the right to a divorce, the right to continue her education and work, the right to determine whether or not she wears a head covering, and the right to decide whether the marriage will include other wives. (Via).
(For perspective, the Catholic church condemned divorce until... well, they STILL don't endorse it).
3. Islam is centered around five pillars of faith:
1. The testament of faith. The declaration of faith (usually said in Arabic) "There is no god but God (and) Muhammad is the messenger of God", must be said to become a Muslim.
2. Prayer five times a day.
3. Charity. The practice of giving is obligatory for all Muslims who are able. It is also believed that it is the personal responsibility of every Muslim to strive towards equality and eliminating hardship for others.
4. Fasting during Ramadan.
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime (as long as it is physically and financially possible).
4. The 'seventy-two virgins await you in heaven' isn't real.
This myth is derived from a reference in a hadith of questionable credibility. (Hadiths are sayings or accounts that have been attributed to the Prophet Muhammad that are not part of the scripture. Think the Gospel of Judas).
5. The Rules of War explicitly forbid the murder of women, children, and non-combatants.
It also specifies when fighting is permitted (in self-defense or in the defense of others, including the violent persecution of Christians or Jews). This is a permission- not a commandment (via).
6. The Founding Fathers really admired Islam.
Thomas Jefferson for example taught himself Arabic from his copy of the Qu’ran and hosted the first White House Iftar during Ramadan (via).
7. Most Muslims don't live in the Middle East.
In fact 61.9% live in the Asia-Pacific region instead (via). Not all people of Arabic descent are Muslim (many are Christian), and being of Arabic descent is not a requirement for being Muslim.
8. We owe a lot of modern technology to the Islamic Golden Age.
Before the Renaissance (between the 8th and 13th century) is a period of innovation and discovery that emerged from the Muslim community. The Islamic Golden Age gave us things like algebra, and advanced everything from geography and exploration to the arts, architecture, philosophy, urban development, medicine and health (via).
9. The word "jihad" actually means struggle, not "holy war".
It is often something very personal, such as a the struggle to be a good believer, though it can refer to a struggle in the world (via). The Prophet Muhammed characterized it as the battle for self-control and betterment.
10. Personal responsibility is a major part of Muslim faith.
"Islam teaches that on the Day of Judgment every person will be resurrected and will be accountable to God for their every word and deed. Consequently, a practicing Muslim is always striving to be righteous while hoping and praying for God's acceptance and grace." (Via).
Just like any major faith, Muslims are a diverse group of people.
Since so much of faith involves striving to be a good person, that can mean different things to different people. But the core of the faith is striving for goodness.