The last time an Osama bin Laden tape showed up for our viewing displeasure, the terrorist spoke of a "crusade against Islam." Unfortunately, U.S. polls are showing that Americans misunderstand Islam on such a scale that this bogus claim is allowed more fertile ground to sprout than should be available.
That's why Milwaukeeans should avail themselves of a special opportunity Saturday. They should visit the Islamic Center of Milwaukee for an open house that will include a tour, question-and-answer sessions and information about a religion that shares some of the same roots as Judaism and Christianity.
Journal Sentinel reporter Tom Heinen wrote on Monday of the invitation to the public from the Islamic Center. The article also contained some disquieting revelations.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in early March showed negative views of Islam have grown and that many Americans believe that Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims. An independent poll by the Council on American-Islamic Relations last month had one in four Americans believing that Islam is a religion of hatred and violence, Heinen wrote.
Such slanted U.S. views on Islam inform not only Muslim perceptions of this country but also provide cover to U.S. policy decisions not necessarily in the country's interest. The view that the jihadists who perpetrated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were concretely and operationally tied to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, for instance. We suspect that this falsehood would not have been so believable had perceptions about Islam been on firmer and more accurate ground and there wasn't such a temptation to lump all Arabs and Muslims into one pile.
Many of those blowing up themselves and others in Iraq and elsewhere are indeed citing their faith and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed for this lunacy. And it's important to understand what these people believe their faith says that compels such action. A visit to the open house could help.