Islamophobia: Issues, Challenges, and a Solution
The analysis of the material gathered for this report shows Islamophobia is indeed present on campus. The presence of this irrational fear at the University of Oklahoma poses a great danger for students of all races and religious affiliations. Although our university’s is an equal opportunity institution, we fear students could suffer the lack of educational opportunities.
As this issue was examined deeper, we realized the problem is rather complex and the solution will not come easy. Mass media, foreign policy, and the differences of Islam to Christianity are all pillars supporting the cultural tension. The University of Oklahoma should further promote diversity for the development of Muslim students. Perhaps more important, the best way to battle Islamophobia is though education so that fears and stereotypes could be seen for what they really are.
In the course of our research, we found disturbing truths on how the student body feels about the issue. The stereotypes most people have are based on half truths and misunderstanding. By education ourselves, we can filter out the information provided by the media, and other non-credible sources.
We will like to give a special recognition to Nick Perkins for the effort and guidance during the research process. His knowledge truly helped put this report together.
Thank you for allowing our Business Communication class work on this project. Every little step of this assignment was an eye-opener, as we hope for anyone else who reads it. If you happen to have any questions or comments regarding this report, feel free to contact any of the students who took part in the preparation process.
Summary of Issues and Challenges of Islamophobia
The purpose of this report is to highlight and examine the cultural tension, differences, and negative perceptions of global sentiment toward Arab and Muslim peoples. This phenomenon, called Islamophobia, has been a growing trend that is intensified through the media, which perpetuates the misunderstanding and alienation. “Thinkers of the Western World have called the phenomenon of Islamophobia the most important social crisis for European and American citizens”1.
The beginnings of our cultural misunderstanding lie partially in our lack of knowledge or lack of desire to understand and recognize different cultures and customs worldwide.
Our current negative stereotypes are perpetuated by the media, but they come from three distinct reason caused by misinformation and history. The ways in which we get our information, news, and communication feed into the mistruths about different cultures.
Education is a solution to dispelling the misinformation that causes Islamophobia. Integrating educational assignments to discuss current misunderstanding and encourage cultural learning will help spread objective messages and images of other cultures and worldviews.
We must understand the differences that divide us instead of focusing on the small differences. Communication and cooperation between groups will help to foster tolerance and a well-informed public. The more well rounded our information and sources of information the better we can offer real solutions to help better overall wellbeing globally and locally. Making decisions based on sound information and actual sources are required for any educated decision and so should our foreign policy and educational standards.
During the weeks that followed September 11, 2001 a new awareness of Islam started to emerge. Unfortunately there is only so much context the popular media can provide to help the American people understand the current events. When the trusted sources ran out, Muslim leader’s biggest fears were realized. The days that followed the terrorist attacks, several Muslims, or those who just looked like Muslims, were victims of hate crimes. It is indeed the case that an entire generation is traumatized by Muslim stereotypes. How can a broadly secular country as the United States, but with many Christian traditions provide space for a new religion in its melting pot? Since 9/11 the anti-Muslim prejudice in America is increasing rapidly and dangerously in force and seriousness. The problem will be looked at closer because not enough action has been put to effect since the alarm was first raised about the devastating effect of Islamophobia.
The purpose of this report is to highlight and examine the cultural tension, differences, and negative perceptions of global sentiment toward Arab and Muslim people. This phenomenon, called Islamophobia, has been a growing trend that is intensified through the media, which perpetuates the misunderstanding and alienation. “Thinkers of the Western World have called the phenomenon of Islamophobia the most important social crisis for European and American citizens”.
Sources and Methods
This report was prepared by a small group of students which are part of a Business Communication class at the University of Oklahoma. All the work that was cited in this report is from the country’s top Muslim scholars, in order to provide you with the most credible information. We also analyzed a survey that was conducted on the spring of 2007 to find the extent of Islamophobia on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. The survey took place at the Walker-Adams mall and was completed by 25 students of which 12 were female and 13 were male.
First this report will define Islamophobia in order to make the context of the paper more effective. This report will then also analyze the factors of Islamophobia like cultural tension, differences, and misinformation. To conclude we will review the role the media plays in Islamophobia as well as how to confront it.
What is Isamophobia?
In today’s society there has been an increasing trend in the negative views of Islam. In a poll conducted by the Washington post it was found that 46 percent of Americans share a generally negative view of Islam. On a similar note the Council on American-Islamic Relations carried out a poll that found one in four Americans have extreme anti-Muslim views (Ghazali). What is the source of this hatred? With the events of 9/11 aside the answer to this question was investigated by a British independent research group known as the Runnymede Trust. In their 1997 report entitled Islamophobia: a challenge for us all they proposed Islamophobia was the result of several components which included beliefs that Islam
- has no values in common with other cultures
- is violent, aggressive and threatening
- is supportive of terrorism and engaged in a 'clash of civilisations'
These views are also true for the United States. Considering these components it becomes clear Islamophobia is a product of the misunderstandings of Muslims and their religion.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world and there are currently around 5 million Muslims in the United States (Numan). The religion began during the mid seventh century in the Arabia region. It was founded by the prophet Muhammed who was sent by God, known as Allah in Islam, to spread his word. The Quran is the holy book of Islam, it contains the spoken word of Allah to Muhammed and has remained unchanged(Dufford). To understand the religion of Islam one must first be aware of the values it teaches.
Values and Beliefs
In a 2004 survey conducted by Cornell University only 27 percent of Americans believe Islamic values and beliefs are similar to Western/Christian values and beliefs (Nisbet, 8). In fact Islam shares several values and beliefs in common with Christianity. First of all, Islam believes that there is only on God and it is the same god that is worshiped by Christians. They share the same idea of the creation of earth, Chapter 50, verse 38 of the Quran states “We created the heavens and the earth and all between them in Six Days, nor did any sense of weariness touch us.” (Gaudet) This coincides with the book of genesis of the Holy Bible where it preaches that God created the heavens and earth in seven days. The two religions also share the belief that god molded man from earth and breathed life into him (Gaudet).
Secondly, Islam believes that god sent prophets to earth to guide humans. They even believe in some of the same prophets mentioned in the bible such as Moses and even Jesus (Gaudet). However, they do not believe Jesus was the son of God, instead they consider Muhammed to be the culmination of all prophets including Jesus.
Lastly, the Islam faith preaches moral codes parallel to those of Christian belief. Figure 1 is a chart showing verses from the Quran that coincide with the 10 commandments given to Moses by God.
Table 1 (Gaudet)
Qur'an 17:23 Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him
Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before Me
Qur'an 22 Avoid filthy rites associated with idols and also false invocations, remaining firm in faith towards God, without associating anyone with Him.
Exodus 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
Qur'an 7:180 And Allah's are the best names, therefore call on Him thereby, and leave alone those who violate the sanctity of His names
Exodus 20:7 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
Qur'an 16:124 The Sabbath was only made (strict) for those who disagreed (as to its observance); But Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment, as to their differences.
Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work,
Qur'an 17:23 Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor.
Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gave you.
Qur'an 17:33 Nor take life which Allah has made sacred .
Exodus 20:13 You shall not kill
Qur'an 60:12 they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah, that they will not steal,
Exodus 20:15 You shall not steal.
Qur'an 2:42 And cover not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when ye know (what it is).
Qur'an 4:32 And in no wise covet those things in which Allah Hath bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others . . .
Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Islam: A Religion of Peace
The same 2004 survey from Cornell found that 47 percent of Americans deem Islam as violent (Nisbet 8). This conception of Islam is also false. Islam is actually a religion founded on principles of peace. The word Islam is derived from the Greek word “Silm” which directly translates to peace in English. Also, Islam is the religion of Salam which is an individual quest for peace, and has three major components (Pakistan Link).
1. Inner Peace and Harmony: In the first part of Salam an individual must find inner peace by finding faith in god and believing he is the creator of everything. Also, individuals must be “honest, truthful, patient, contented, charitable, cheerful, and tolerant” (Pakistan Link)
2. Social Cohesion: The second part says that peace and harmony taught in Islam should be spread among society. In order to reach social cohesion one must understand that all humans are of the same blood and injustice must not exist among them (Pakistan Link).
3. Treatment of Tension and Conflicts: The last part recognizes conflict and tension will always exist among humans. The Quran teaches that conflicts should be resolved peacefully and it is best to reconcile. In the last part of Salam the idea of a just war known as Jihad is introduced. The idea of Jihad leads to the next section of research (Pakistan Link).
The beginnings of our cultural misunderstanding lie partially in our lack of knowledge or lack of desire to understand and recognize different cultures and customs worldwide. American foreign policy takes our resources and interests and places them in every area of the globe. Although separated from the “East” by the Pacific Ocean, “U.S. influence has been felt in every country within the region.” The Middle East’s oil rich resources have drawn “American economic interests” to the region along with “presidents and lawmakers to intervene in the region” . According to the Doudon Dine, Special Reporter on contemporary forms of racism to the United Nations attributes the “upsurge of intolerance” post-September 11, 2001 to terrorism being “equated with Islam, giving rise to racial and religious intolerance”.
The map of the Middle East was created by European “colonial” powers after World War I and the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Countries such as “Britain, France, Germany, and Russia sought to control natural resources, create markets for their industries and establish colonies around the globe”. The Ottoman Empire reigned from 1300 to 1922, covering much of the Balkans, Anatolia, the Central Middle East, and North Africa. Its laws were based on the teachings of Islam and the sultan’s dictates. In 1920, however, the Ottoman Empire was divided between Britain and France, as outlined in the League of Nations Sykes-Picot Agreement. In the late 1940s, United States foreign policy took a more active role in the politics of the Middle East in its fight against Russia in the Cold War. This led the U.S. to support “leaders and governments it considered to be stable allies,” including Saudi Arabia and its “royal family, Israel, and Egyptian governments since Anwar Sadat.” This allowed the U.S. to dominate policy, secure oil, and, more recently, become involved in “fighting terrorism”.
Muslims and Arabs are sometimes confused because the Islamic religion primarily uses Arabic; in fact, less than 15 percent of Muslims are Arabs. The people and the customs of the Middle East are very diverse, occupying “fertile plains and fishing villages,” more than deserts. The general public is often misinformed about the reality of the inhabitants of the Middle East, who are mainly poor or middle class. Seemingly educated and tolerant Westerners who forthrightly condemn racism have no problem openly discriminating against Muslims because the religion has (erroneously) become synonymous with terrorism, violence, and barbarism.
Cultural tension and perceived differences are “changing perception of Muslims and their religion” 6. The reality is that “most Muslims condemn violence as any non-Muslim and resent presumed violence” simply because they are members of the same religious group7. In 2005, the Council on American-Islamic relations reported that as of 2002 there have been three times the reported incidents of harassment, violence, and discrimination against American Muslims6. Ansari echoes this sentiment when he says that Islamophobia is a form of “racism in the Modern world” where “the ‘feeling of ideological superiority’ has become the ground for extremist tendencies instead of ‘language and the color of the skin and hair’”. This feeling of superiority allows for “racial profiling and other forms of legal persecution” to follow, with perceived justification6.
Explanations for the current negative stereotypes:
- Prejudice against Arabs is part of European folk heritage
- Lack of knowledge about Arabs in the United States reinforces the image of Arabs as "other"
- Lack of a significant Arab population in the United States to counter the current stereotypes9
Ansari goes on to say that the media is responsible for efforts to “create disagreements between Muslims and Christians by trying to bring…the Crusades back to the minds of people in the West”. A gross distortion of fact is with the term “jihad” and Western media’s portrayal of it as a “holy-war,” which it is not. The differences between Europe and the Middle East have been exaggerated, “concentrating on the ‘exotic’ rather than the similar.” The meaning of the word “‘jihad’ is intensely personal…the internal struggle to be a moral person,”6 referring to “self-control against temptation in the Quran.” The Quran actually sets limits restricting forced conversion and protects the lives of non-combatants in battle7. These realities are rarely presented in present day media. Instead, a negative and distorted view is promoted.
The tensions between the U.S. and the Muslim and Arab world can only be reduced when there is understanding and communication between societies that is accurately representative of the population’s beliefs.
The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the “radicalizing of young Muslims” and displaced large populations of now vulnerable people. Each month 50,000 Iraqis are fleeing Iraq and 1.7 million Iraqis have been displaced inside Iraq, according to the United Nations. This has affected roughly 40 percent of Iraq’s middle class, who have fled systematic persecution. The sectarian violence that has emerged between Sunni and Shi’ites can be attributed to “flawed American postwar policies, provocation by foreign jihadis, retaliation by militias…, the ineptitude of Iraqi politicians and, lately, Iranian interference” 6.
Additionally, the effects of the conflict equate to more conflicts in “other parts of the Middle East, exacerbating existing tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites and re-animating long-dormant ones”. “Refugee advocates say the country most needs emergency humanitarian aid” for $60 million to stop this crisis. According to Kathlien Newland, “We have not seen as much of an outpouring of sympathy for the innocent victims of this war from Americans”. This seems to signal that Americans feel some sort of “ideological superiority” and do not feel any guilt or compassion for those they consider to be of less value. “It will be our own apathy or advocacy that determines this chapter of American history”6. As a society, we can take actions to increase cultural understanding and acceptance, toward a goal of fostering peaceful co-habitation.
How the Media Keeps Islamophobia Alive
Stereotypes are the incorrect ideas about a society, created by a lack of education and cultural misunderstandings. Middle Eastern stereotypes have a long history stemming from as far back as the Greeks and Persians. When Europeans first started have continuing contact with the Middle East they always brought back stories of the “exotic” while never speaking of the likenesses. These ancient stereotypes are still widely accepted across the globe because they have been constantly reinvigorated by modern media and pop culture alike. Even before the Iraq War American viewers could barely turn on their televisions to ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, or any other news station without a constant flood of troubling news about the Middle East. If every Muslim or Arabian individual acted like the small minority that grabs the headlines then there would not be an inch left of American soil that would not have been bombed by now.
While the modern American media must report the bad and shocking news from the Middle East they should also not be afraid to show what other Muslim people are doing to prevent these terrorists and who prayed for the lives lost during 9/11.
How has the Media’s Portrayal Perpetuated Stereotypes?
- The Arab world has changed, but the Arab stereotype has not
- Hollywood's Middle East has become a more sinister place
- There has been a change toward more explicitly anti-Arab movie genres9
The media is not alone though in keeping these stereotypes alive. Hollywood and Pop Culture have thrived on these stereotypes for countless movies, TV shows, and even children’s cartoons. Hollywood has created hundreds of movies over the last couple of decades that have Arab terrorists or villains without a second thought. True Lies, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and now 300 all of which showcases Middle Eastern people as strange, barbaric, and evil. Even when Hollywood has shown Arabs as being “good” guys they are always lead by a white person such as the film Lawrence of Arabia.
The worst offenders by far are children movies, TV shows, and comic books. Countless evil oil sheiks or terrorists have been defeated by Superman or the Fantastic Four or almost any other hero from a Saturday morning cartoon. An excellent example would be the movie Aladdin made by Disney. Here is a line from the opening song of the movie. “Oh, I come from a land, From a faraway place, Where the caravan camels roam, Where they cut off your ear If they don’t like your face, It’s Barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” This movie made in 1992 not only featured this line but heavily Americanized the heroes and used exaggerated Arabic features for all of the villains.
Terrorism and Islam
The acts of terror carried out in the name of Islam have been justified by terrorist as Jihad. The translation of Jihad as a “holy war” is incorrect. Jihad is an individuals struggle for inn peace and justice and is simply the protection of Islam. According to Salam, anyone who tries to stop an individual from reaching inner peace may be resisted in a peaceful manner. Only when an enemy takes arms against them can a Muslim us means of violence (Pakistan Link).
The Quaran states, “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not do aggression…anyone who makes aggression against you, you may likewise aggress against him…” (2:190-194)
According to these verses it becomes evident those who conduct acts of terror against innocent civilians in the name of Jihad are actually oppressors of Islam. Also, those who follow Islam do not condone terrorism. Figure 1 (page 9) shows the majority of Muslims believe acts of terror are never justified.
The World’s View on Terror
The national survey data was obtained was collected by the PEW Research Forum on Religion and Life. This data is a generalization and opinion poll taken of the major countries in the United Nations and their opinions on Islam, terrorism, and views of all the worlds’ major religions.
The first main survey data covered was world view on terror. This information goes through and breaks down the countries view on terror and their “worried ness” of a terror attack in their country. As one can very easily see from the given chart that in fact the United States is eighth on the list when it comes to concerns of Islamic extremism and terrorism. Russia is most concerned but only at 52%. These numbers are surprising for the US especially in light of 9/11 and heightened military action in the Middle East.
Following this data collection, was the poll taken of these same countries and their opinions of world religions. The data collected here was fairly predictable with each country having more favor for their prominent religion, for example the US favors Christianity at 87% approval and has an unfavorable opinion for Muslims at 22%. This data seems to best represent the growing trend towards Islamophobia in the post 9/11 era.
The break down of the national survey was important to our project, however not nearly as important as the break down of the opinion of students on the campus of The University of Oklahoma, for after all with the spread of this ideology the best possible cure is to provide awareness and knowledge to the campus of Islamophobia and the true facts about the religion of Islam.
Islamophobia on Campus
In the spring of 2007 a survey was conducted to find the extent of Islamophobia on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. The survey took place at the Walker-Adams mall and was completed by 25 students of which 12 were female and 13 were male. Through question asked to students we felt to see the person’s opinion on the American culture in comparison to other nations and cultures around the world. The question simply asks ‘do you feel the Americans as a whole are more civilized than other countries and cultures?’ Yet again going back to the previous data collected the results from this question were quite unexpected. From the twenty five surveyed twenty three feel that America is more civilized than other cultures throughout the world.
When going back to think of possible reasons this response was so skewed I feel that the question its self may not have been asked in the best possible way; perhaps the best way would have been to ask ‘do you feel American culture is more civilized than that of Islamic culture?’ The last question asked was really more reason some justification to the equality of the sample. We asked for a ratio of age and sex of our sample to analyze the actual student body. And again the data for these questions can be found in the charts provided.
The Effect of Islamophobia on Students
Muslims in the United States suffer not only the already established challenges most minorities face today. The hardest concept for Muslims to understand is that their single presence in the United States is defined as a peril. Just as the communities established self-help organizations, as well as constructed their own places of worship, the September 11 attacks shook every minority’s foundation for equality. “As religious and often racial minorities in the United States, Muslims have known the horrible face of U.S. xenophobia, racism, sexism, and now Islamophobia” (Curtis 284). The Aftermath of these irrational and persistent fears is the lack of economic and educational opportunities for thousands of Muslim-Americans. This paper will address several issues that will need to be hammered-out in order to prevent the expansion of Islamophobia in the American educational system.
The concern is that both within and outside the educational Systems, Islamophobia in America has become acceptable if not respected. This state of mind in our schools will cause a lack of educational achievements among young Muslims, leading to unemployment and alienation. Even though we currently not have national data relating educational achievements with religious affiliations, we can look at Brittan’s National statistics on educational achievements since the summer of 2003. It Shows:
- Compared with the national average of 51 per cent, 45 per cent of students of Bangladeshi heritage, and 20 per cent of students of Pakistani heritage achieved “A’s” (Stone 48).
- This Compared with 73 per cent of students of Chinese heritage, 64 percent of students African Heritages, and 30 per cent of students of African Caribbean heritage (Stone 48).
Brittan is a country who has engaged in a latter chapter of this unfortunate tale. A tale where the “Young Muslims depict a generation that is torn between insecurity and confidence, anxiety and hope, doubt and determination” (Stone 47). It will not be misleading to imply that young American Muslims will experience this same kind of disillusioned, alienated feeling if Islamophobia is not diminished from schools. Brittan’s figures are alarming because the underachievement by Muslim American students is starting to mirror Brittan’s Student’s statistics. The following paragraphs will address the studies made by different Muslim scholars, and surveys taken at the University Of Oklahoma.
Any student that is a member of a minority group experiences a vast range of demands and expectations in order to develop their American identity. Young Muslim students need to meet the expectations from the community, the school, and peers without discriminating their family roots. So what are schools doing to help students
balance the pressures? There was a survey created for this paper in which 30 American Students where ask about their overall knowledge of Islam and Muslim culture. Figure 8 displays Student answers organized from 1 through 5 where 1 is most knowledgeable and 5 is least knowledgeable.
As shown in the chart, the largest percentage belongs to the students who felt they have very little knowledge of Muslim Culture. This is truly a concern, because Muslims have contributed to the lives of people around them and left their mark for centuries to come.
The curriculum in the American schools needs to reflect this same concept in order to give Muslim students confidence and help build their identity. An identity is much needed for inspiration to excel and contribute to modern day life. Most universities like the University of Oklahoma offer a wide range of classes to provide cultural awareness through education.
Some of the classes provided by The University of Oklahoma are:
- International Relations in the Middle East
- Israeli Culture Through Film
- Religion & Culture in the Middle East
In a recent interview with Maria Muessig, a Communications major at the University of Oklahoma reveled she would be interested in been part of a class about Middle Eastern Culture. The problem for the most part is that students in her age group have already established stereotypes, and it is harder for these students to be opened-minded to other religious affiliations. The solution rests on the expansion of the curriculum to earlier levels of education to prevent Muslim stereotypes from developing. Maria Muessig states she would have liked to learn about Eastern culture earlier in her life. “I would of liked to understand some of the practices I now feel violate women’s rights”.(Muessig) Educating our youngsters would eliminate the pressures they invoke onto other Muslim students because they don’t understand the culture.
Voices of Muslim Students
The success of this policy depends strictly on the partnership between parents, schools, and organizations. Even though a lot of schools have already established the bridges to battle Islamophobia, there are a lot of problems and obstacles that need to be overcome. The most recent examples are the biased views people have on the “war on terror”, the current situation on Israel/Palestine, and Al Qaeda.
“The views of people about Muslim identity are hurt by the misunderstanding of the events overseas” (Stone 51). Interviews held in the summer of 2003 by Laura Smith show some of the feelings young Muslims have in school, for example three young woman in high school state:
“People used to ask me why I wear my headscarf. People used to say I looked nicer without it, so I took it off because I was a bit embarrassed.
But now I’m in Year Nine and I’m becoming more of a lady and I want to wear it. Some people think we are forced to wear them but my parents don’t mind either way. It was my choice.” Mariam 14
“The way people talk about Muslims and Jihad makes us feel guilty, even thought there are no reasons to feel like that. Sometimes people look at me and I imagine they’re thinking ‘go back to your own country’. After September 11 one black girl said to me, ‘now you know how black people feel’…” Asma, 16
“I know I want to make “A’s” and go to a university and I thought I wanted to go to college, but now I don’t know where to go. I don’t feel welcome. I am a bit lost. Where will I end up? Tikima 17
Spiral of Mutual Antagonism and Rejection
Obviously the insensitive view of Islamic students by other students has taken an unnecessary disturbing toll on innocent Muslim kids. This type of response from American kids is very dangerous because it sets the foundation for a vicious circle. Dr. Richard Stone in his book Islamophobia explains the “spiral of mutual antagonism and rejection.” When young people experience rejection at school they often turn for moral support to a street-culture. Most of the times this sub-culture to which they turn is anti-school, there is then a vicious circle. In the case of Muslim students, the subcultures to
which they may turn include groups labeled as ‘fundamentalism’ or ‘extremism’. A likely result includes a considerable and possibly violent rejection, supposedly in the name of Islam, of all Western things.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Whether the Islamic culture emerges in the United States free of fears, racism, and hate crimes depends not only on the actions of Muslims themselves. The future of Islam will be also shaped by the overall knowledge and understanding of Muslim culture by American citizens. Whatever strategy is used to battle Islamophobia, it will need to be strongly based on education. By educating our citizens, America will no longer define Muslims as a national peril. Teachers and educators have the leadership ability to dispel myths and educate students and peers. Integrating educational assignments to discuss current misunderstanding and encourage cultural learning will help spread objective messages and images of other cultures and worldviews.
We must understand the differences that divide us instead of focusing on the small differences. Communication and cooperation between groups will help to foster tolerance and a well-informed public. The more well rounded our information and sources of information the better we can offer real solutions to help better overall wellbeing globally and locally. Our goal as self-actualizing human beings can only be realized if we are allowed to make ourselves whole. American exceptionalism10, the belief that American society is more civilized or superior to all others, shown to be present at the University of Oklahoma campus as shown in Graph 1 (page 12) and present in general public opinion must be diminished. Making decisions based on sound information and actual sources are required for any educated decision and so should our foreign policy and educational standards.
Response to the real situation means communicating with the cultural and societal differences and becoming more educated about each other. We live in global economies and our role has been inundated with other cultures and practices that have their own unique identity and traditions with each their own beliefs and rituals. Each civilization and society has its own unique attributes, but this should not keep us from coming together in a way that is beneficial and self-preserving of every unique identity. This is not a melting pot but a certain level of education and understanding that allow us to accept and coexist to work toward our mutual benefit.
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8 Extremism is a term used to describe the actions or ideologies of individuals or groups outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common standards of ethics and reciprocity. (Wikipidia)
10 American exceptionalism has been historically referred to as the perception that the United States differs qualitatively from other developed nations, because of its unique origins, national credo, historical evolution, or distinctive political and religious institutions. The difference is typically expressed as some categorical superiority, to which is usually attached some rationalization or explanation that may vary greatly depending on the historical period and the political context. (Wikipidia)