Overcoming Distorted Perceptions


A longtime friend told me that she recently had to defend Muslims at a family gathering. One of her relatives was very upset with Muslim-Americans. "They have never condemned Osama bin Laden" he said.

My friend said that she knew many Muslims, including me and my family, and knew that we abhorred and condemned violence.

There is a perception that Muslims are mute on the question of terrorism and violence. You hear it on radio and TV, though people who actually know Muslims tend to disagree. A recent Pew Trust survey found that those who have Muslims as friends or co-workers had a more positive attitude toward them. The survey also found that people have a more negative view of the religion of Islam than of Muslim people; an example of the "I love my postman but hate the Postal Service syndrome."

The problem is, Muslims make up 1.5 to 2 percent of the U.S. population and are concentrated in urban centers and work in a handful of professions. There are great swaths of the country that have no personal interaction with us.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, were condemned by most every Muslim organization in the U.S., as well as by Islamic scholars of all stripes, traditional and modernist. After Sept. 11, Muslims in large numbers donated blood and held prayer meetings in mosques. There were rallies in many U.S. cities to condemn violence and terror.

Yet the perception persists that Muslims have been quiet.

 


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