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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Muslim informative efforts need support

    As irritating as it was to see the Danes rationalize their reckless publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad earlier this year with the shield of free speech or obvious “”free world”” rhetoric, it brought a comforting thought for Muslims, history buffs, academics and people of conscience: Amidst the controversy, dialogue about Islam and the life of the Prophet Mohammad is increasing.

    Muslims disappointed by the violent reaction of their brethren have launched a series of campaigns educating others about their faith.

    The Council on American Islamic Relations and its sister group in Canada launched a year-long educational campaign on Feb. 15 called “”Explore the Life of Muhammad.””

    CAIR’s executive director, Nihad Awad, said the initiative is a way to unite people of all faiths in learning more about the prophet.

    The campaign distributes free books and DVDs highlighting the prophet’s life and encourages grass-roots educational activities such as panel discussions, essay contests and interfaith events in Muslim communities throughout North America. The campaign is simply meeting a demand, one not exclusive to America.

    In Eastern Europe, two days after CAIR launched its campaign, the Federation of Social Organizations, a Ukraine-based Muslim umbrella body, started printing and distributing hundreds of thousands of informative brochures about the prophet in Ukrainian cities.

    The dialogue continued on March 9 when a group of Muslim scholars, intellectuals and youths met in Copenhagen with their Danish peers as part of a two-day conference initiated by the prominent Egyptian Muslim preacher Amr Khaled and organized by the Danish Institute for International Studies. Twenty-five young men and women from Middle Eastern countries met to discuss Muslim-West dialogue, freedom of expression, the status of the Muslim minorities in the West and, most pertinently, what the prophet means to Muslims.

    Starting Monday, the UA’s Muslim Student Association will be hosting an Islamic Awareness Week, where guest speakers will talk about the life of the Prophet Mohammad every evening at 6:30. A complete schedule can be found at http://clubs.asua.arizona.edu/~msapage.

    Despite these commendable efforts, it is evident that Islamophobia is on the rise. Two recent polls released by CAIR show that half of Americans have a negative perception of Islam, with one in four of those surveyed holding “”extreme”” anti-Muslim views. Moreover, about one-fourth of Americans believe Islam teaches violence and hatred.

    A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam. That is seven percentage points higher than in the months following Sept. 11.

    More frightening than the results of these polls and the consequences of such religious prejudice is the apathy held by the greater, indirectly affected majority.

    While it is true that many Muslim organizations have sought to lessen the burden radical Muslims dumped on their shoulders, progressiveness isn’t a one-way street. The non-Muslim witnesses to these efforts also need to reach out and condemn bigoted and ignorant views. Citizens of the world, Muslim or not, need to work together in order to dispel the myths and preconceived notions associated with Islam.

    Engaging in missionary work for another religion is a queer concept, but so was standing up against McCarthyism and dining with a Negro.

    The understanding that results from education and dialogue is the best defense against violence. Stubborn editors, security color codes and government propaganda don’t build human relations or foster successful societies. It is up to citizens around the world to engage in conversations and human interactions needed to maintain basic social order.

    If enough interest is shown, perhaps the State Department will sponsor an educational campaign in American schools that explains Islam to future generations. After all, what besides indifference has kept information about a major world religion out of the classroom curriculum?

    We owe it to the citizens of the countries we have invaded to try and improve our perception through educational dialogue. Maybe then the majority of Americans will remember more than just a funny picture or jarring headline referring to Islam’s most revered figure.


    Yusra Tekbali is a junior majoring in journalism and Near Eastern studies. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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