PANEL HIGHLIGHTS: ATTACKING ISLAM: IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIAL COHESION AND U.S. RELATIONS WITH THE MUSLIM WORLD

Presenters:
* David Keene, Chairman, American Conservative Union
* Parvez Ahmed, Chairman, Council on American-Islamic Relations

WHEN: Tuesday, July 17, 2007, 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.
WHERE: Holeman Lounge, National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Excerpts from Remarks by Parvez Ahmed

As a nation, we are at a crossroad. One path is laden with fear and paranoia. The other path is sober and pragmatic. Following the tragic attacks on 9-11, US policies have been largely driven by fear. The fact that “fear” was a primary motivator in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 is understandable. But six years later the fact that our policies continue to be driven by fear is problematic.

It is problematic because policies driven by fear will be naturally irrational. Thus, to sustain such irrationality, the Bush administration, often through their surrogates have resorted to fear mongering. This has unleashed a vicious cycle. One in which fear leads to bad polices and bad policies lead to more fear. Caught in this vicious cycle are Muslims – whose faith has been blamed for everything from genocide to terrorism with bad governance in between.

Rather than focus on a narrow minority of fanatics that are behind the terrorist attacks or the handful of unelected rulers whose actions remain antithetical to their faith, the popular discourse in America today remains mired in stereotypical pronouncements about Islam.

As a result Muslims and their faith Islam remains misunderstood, feared and shunned – 4 in 10 Americans admit being prejudiced about Muslims. A country as diverse as America and one that stands on the principles of liberty and justice for all can ill afford to remain entrenched in such prejudices and paranoia.

Despite the fact that the American Muslim community has to live with consequences of a pervasive Islamophobia, the community shows remarkable optimism. A recent poll by the Pew Center shows that American Muslims are mostly mainstream and decidedly American in their outlook, values, and attitudes. American Muslims have a positive view towards the larger society and overwhelmingly reject extremism in all its forms.

 

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