Fear, ignorance causes spike in American Muslim prejudice

By HAVILAH DRIVER

Known as the land of opportunity, America is a cultural melting pot. However, this causes the nation to face a large problem – prejudice towards American Muslims.

In addition to the terrifying 9/11 terrorist attacks, an event earlier this year further shook the nation.

Americans were shocked by the disturbing videos of the beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the radical Islamist militant group.

Since the World Trade Center attacks over a decade ago, what are Americans’ current views on American Muslims?

Emily Bean, president of Student Union for Peace and Human Rights at Kennesaw State University, speaks of the ignorance people have about what is going on in the world.

“The media plays a major role in shaping people’s perceptions. There is a tendency to generalize and associate violence with Islam,” said Bean. “More than one billion people are Muslims. ISIS is a small portion of the Muslim population. The problem is people don’t educate themselves. Students don’t educate themselves.”

KSU celebrates the year of the Arabian Peninsula; it’s 31st annual study of a region of the world. However, the lecture series has sparked some criticism.

Director of Global Academic Initiatives, Dan Paracka, says that the university has been working with local and international Arab communities, such as the ALIF Institute of Atlanta, to strengthen American Muslim relations.

“We want students to develop an appreciation and understanding of many cultures by giving them access to international learning opportunities,” said Paracka.

According to the Arab-American Institute, Arabs and Muslims have a 27 percent favorable rating and a 45 percent unfavorable rating amongst Americans.

The question still remains: will perceptions change?

Terence McNair, president of KSU Democrats and Muslim Alliance, says that anti-Islam attitudes are slowly progressing to a neutral standpoint. However, it will take time for the public’s attitudes to change.

“I can’t change perceptions but I can express my opinion,” said McNair. “And if people learn something, then I did my part. Students need to educate themselves. If they do that, they will know how to help.”

Many people have fear and hatred held against the Islamic faith based on past events, but once the public is better informed and more educated, McNair, Paracka, and Bean all hope that the overall negative stigma attached will be dropped and American Muslims can build and maintain stronger relationships with others.

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