US Indymedia Global Indymedia Publish About us
Printed from Boston IMC : http://boston.indymedia.org/
Boston.Indymedia
IVAW Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Testimonies
Brad Presente

Other Local News

Spare Change News
Open Media Boston
Somerville Voices
Cradle of Liberty
The Sword and Shield

Local Radio Shows

WMBR 88.1 FM
What's Left
WEDS at 8:00 pm
Local Edition
FRI (alt) at 5:30 pm

WMFO 91.5 FM
Socialist Alternative
SUN 11:00 am

WZBC 90.3 FM
Sounds of Dissent
SAT at 11:00 am
Truth and Justice Radio
SUN at 6:00 am

Create account Log in
Comment on this article | Email this article | Printer-friendly version
News ::
Information prevailing over Prejudice
25 Apr 2002
This article explores how September 11 affected the perception of Muslims and
Islam in Western communities. The results, as we are sure you will
find, are fascinating and perhaps not what most would have expected.
Thursday, April 25, 2002

The following article, authored by AMPAC, will be published on the
popular Islamic webzine, www.iviews.com.

It explores how September 11 affected the perception of Muslims and
Islam in Western communities. The results, as we are sure you will
find, are fascinating and perhaps not what most would have expected.

Special thanks to Br Ismail Royer for his assistance in the research
that underpins this article. May Allah reward him for all his
efforts.

-----

INFORMATION PREVAILING OVER PREJUDICE

If the outpourings of the right-wing chicken-littles of the tabloid
press and talkback radio are to be believed, there is a problem with
multiculturalism. The sky is about to fall down, thanks to the Muslim
"fifth-column" (and Leftist allies) whose refusal to form some
ultra-conservative cargo cult with George Bush as its War God poses
such a sinister threat to Western society.

Attacking the "failed experiment" of multiculturalism, these
self-professed advocates of the common man have claimed that September
11 was some kind of wake-up call to an impending social implosion of
sorts.

Such a position demands to be challenged. Firstly, to what extent do
the sentiments articulated by the monoculturalist Right represent the
sentiments of the common man? Secondly, was multiculturalism damaged
by September 11?

It is difficult to objectively triage the patient of Western
multiculturalism, but one measure is how muslim/non-muslim relations
were affected by September 11.

It would not have been unreasonable to expect that the United States
would have become a tough market for multiculturalists to peddle their
pluralistic wares after September 11. If there was any country on
earth where antagonism against its Muslim minority would have been,
whilst not justifiable, understandable, it would be the USA.

Yet, immediately after September 11, a CNN/Time poll found that 65% of
respondents reported feeling no different than before towards Arab
Americans.

According to a detailed November study by the Pew Research Center for
the People and the Press, 59% of Americans had a favorable view,
compared to 45% in March, 2000. The percentage of those with an
unfavorable view dropped from 40% four days after the hijackings to
17% in November. By way of contrast, the same study found only 42%
view atheists favorable, whilst 49% have a negative view.

Despite the widespread demonisation of Muslims, most American's didn't
buy it. A Harris Interactive poll on September 27, found 76% of
Americans didn't believe that Muslims sympathized with the terrorists.
A March, 2002 poll by CNN and USA Today found 50% of Americans
believed Islam doesn't encourage violence more than any other
religion. 12% said it encouraged violence less.

Whilst such figures are not ideal, the marked and surprising
improvement post-September 11 suggests that something positive
happened.

The most profound change was the sudden and unprecedented access that
the world got to information about Islam. A February poll by CBS
showed that more than half of the public said they now know more about
the faith. In December, 37% of Americans said they were more
interested in Islam than they were before the attacks, with only 5%
saying they were less interested.

Throughout the West, the trend was for people to actively seek out
information, rather than just passively consume it via the media. The
Islamic Information & Services Network of Australia, reported a
massive increase in demand for copies of the Koran, running out in the
first few weeks following September 11. Enter most large bookstore
after September 11, and one couldn't help but notice special displays
of Islamic books and the increased range and quantity. On Amazon.com,
prior to September 11, none of the top 1,000 religion books dealt with
Islam. By October, four of the top 10 titles in religion dealt in
part, or entirely with the faith. An American Life study into internet
use following September 11, found 23% of internet users had searched
for information about Islam.

The link between the improved attitudes and increased access to
information is clear.

A March, 2002 Pew study showed that almost three-quarters of people
who say they are somewhat knowledgeable about the Islamic faith, view
Muslims favorably. For those who have little or no knowledge barely
half view them favorably. Those who said they know at least something
about Islam are more than twice as likely to see Islam as having a lot
in common with their own religious beliefs.

These studies show that multicultural societies have not failed or
been damaged, but rather have emerged stronger from the trials of
September 11 and the events that followed it.

The key to social cohesion in multicultural communities is knowledge
of each other's culture and religion. For Muslims, this presents us
with the challenge of taking the message of Islam to the non-Muslims -
a task which in many communities we have been conspicuous failures at.
Yet, the events of September 11 have shown that there is a clear and
inextricable link between teaching the people about Islam and our
safety and survival as a minority.

For the people of the West, the message is one of reassurance and
hope. Provided people can understand each other, there is no need for
societies to walk a cultural death march towards a dingy monoculture.
Why go down that road? A healthy society is enriched and enlargened by
the so-called "social contradictions" that are a part of cultural
diversity. Surely, it's no coincidence that those societies that have
authentically embraced cultural diversity have best withstood
culturally-based barrages of fear.

For both Muslims and non-Muslims, the lesson is clear: Information will
always prevail over prejudice.

---

Amir Butler is the executive director of the Australian Muslim Public
Affairs Committee (AMPAC).

Email: info (at) muslimaffairs.com.au

--

Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee (AMPAC)
PO Box 180
PASCOE VALE SOUTH VIC 3044
Email: info (at) muslimaffairs.com.au
Web: http://www.muslimaffairs.com.au
See also:
http://www.muslimaffairs.com.au
Add a quick comment
Title
Your name Your email

Comment

Text Format
Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.