Ali S. Asani, Harvard professor of the practice of Indo-Muslim languages and culture, said he knows how to end dehumanization in society – particularly of Muslims.

The solution is death of cultural and religious illiteracy, and the birth of a truly pluralistic society, he said on Nov. 5 at the Dialogue on Islam, sponsored by the Arlington Human Rights Commission, which was held at the Whittemore-Robbins House.

Arlington residents Elaine Hagopian and Kamal Ahmed said Asani’s lecture was a step in the right direction for Arlington and the country to become more Muslim-friendly. But, they said, it only scratches the surface of what needs to be addressed in Arlington and in America itself.

“I think that Arlington, as well as every other town, really needs to demonstrate that they are open to Muslims, to Jews, to Christians in the same way and not just in some exceptional way,” said Hagopian, a retired professor who studied the Middle East for more than 45 years, earning two Fulbright scholarships in the process.

Asani believes society’s dehumanization and demonization of Muslims may be rooted in how knowledge about Muslims is constructed. During his lecture, he pointed out the inadequacies of the popular media, the backfiring of closer and more frequent contact with others throughout the world resulting in fear and the attempt to homogenize others, and the failure of the educational system to go beyond shallow knowledge of diverse cultures and religions.

He summarized this as the “clash of ignorances.”


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