Muslim Students Say U.S. Media is to Blame for Misconceptions about Islam

Providence, RI 1/06/2007 07:24 AM GMT (TransWorldNews)

Most Americans associate Islam with violence and hatred of the West, but a recent survey of 130 young Muslim adults studying in the United States--both American- and foreign-born--paints a very different picture. For example, although 87% of respondents believe that Americans do not understand Islam and 63% believe that Americans are prejudiced against Muslims, an overwhelming 80% have a "generally favorable view of Americans." Seventy-two percent believe that Islamic values are compatible with Western values.

When it comes to Western misconceptions of Islam, the vast majority of respondents blame the "distorted media," which according to an Indonesian-born student at University of Kansas "likes to jumble everything under one umbrella. Something that is not necessarily taught by Islam could be acted out by its followers."

Also at fault are the U.S. education system, which according to an American Muslim from John Hopkins University, doesn't "put enough emphasis on teaching about the values of 20 percent of the world population," as well as Muslims themselves, some of whom "misinform by being poor representatives of their religion and its values," says Pakistani-born Fahad Zahedi, a student at University of Texas at Arlington.

Respondents insist that if we succeed in bridging this gap in understanding, non-Muslim Americans will discover that they have more in common with Muslims than they think. Says Pakistani-born Abdur-Rahman Syed from Boston University, "Islamic values appeal to many of our basic moral intuitions about human dignity, equality and accountability. It isn't surprising that there is considerable overlap between Western and Islamic values."

Respondents generally agree on the most widely held Western misconceptions about Islam, including the misconceptions that Muslim women are oppressed, Islam is an inherently violent religion that condones terrorism, Islam is intolerant of other religions and "jihad" is synonymous with "Holy War."

Full survey results are featured in Glimpse Quarterly's winter issue, which focuses on Islamic practices around the world. The survey was conducted by Glimpse Quarterly's 501(c)3 parent organization, The Glimpse Foundation, which fosters cross-cultural understanding and exchange, particularly between the United States and the rest of the world, by providing forums for young adults to share their experiences living abroad. Click here for a PDF of the survey results as they appear in Glimpse Quarterly:

Glimpse Quarterly's Editor in Chief, Kerala Goodkin, is available for comment.


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