Academia and Islamophobia

There have been many indications in the last year that Islamophobia has been increasing: the protests around the building of  Cordoba House in New York, the attempts in some states to ban sharia law, and Peter King’s hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Americans. All these stories revolve around the concept of fear, specifically fear of Islam and Muslims. While many people have strong opinions on Islam and Muslims, many actually do not know that much about the faith or its followers, even though it is the second largest religion in the world.

Students can go through much of their education understanding very little about the faith. Since much of the problem stems from lack of familiarity, there must be a more concerted effort in academia to counter Islamophobia. The most obvious thing is to offer courses on Islam and to teach it the way that other world faiths are taught. Another way to foster understanding is to create assignments that would ask students to talk with members of the local Muslim community. At UW-Madison, for example, students in anthropology often go to the mosque as part of an assignment.

Also, universities and colleges that now offer terrorism studies classes should have courses on Islam. Students who are asked to study the Middle East and the worldwide Muslim community from one aspect should have knowledge of Islam and its role in the lives of believers beyond a discussion on terrorism.

In addition, professors should maintain a certain level of objectivity in their approach to talking about Islam. In the Huffington Post, Abdulrahman El-Sayed,  a doctoral student, mentions two professors from the London School of Economics and New York University who were openly expressing opinions that were intolerant towards Islam and Muslims. While these professors may be in the minority, it is important that educators not participate in furthering the growing Islamophobia.

Without understanding the faith and its followers, stereotypes continue to define over 1. 5 billion people. Things that are said about Islam out of fear and based on ignorance could easily be corrected with some basic knowledge about the faith.

Do you think that there is a lack of knowledge about Islam? Why do you think that is? Does the academy have a responsibility to counter the growing Islamophobia? What do you think can be done? Please share your thoughts below.

5 thoughts on “Academia and Islamophobia

  1. Reem: Thank you for writing informative articles. While it is vital to be updated about the latest news regarding how Muslim communities are doing worldwide, I think there has been far too much coverage in Inside Islam about the negative treatment Muslims have been receiving. It seems that articles you have written about Islamophobia are coming from a defensive place due to your use of language. Phrases such as “These two statements alone show how little he knows about Islam” or that the aforementioned point “is simply not true” do not draw me in, but rather, make me question your authority as the writer.

    It is important not to sugar-coat any experience. But, when you speak in your voice and tell your story – not always in response to the attacks of others – that makes the story more authentic in its origins. Rumi writes: “Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.” The truth needs no defense. It may require an individual to seek knowledge to unearth it or utilize explanation as a tool for its dissemination, but the reality of truth remains constant.

    My intention here was to offer constructive criticism and I sincerely hope it is taken as just that.

  2. Of course the term Islamophobia speaks of a persistent, abnormal or illogical fear of the religion of Islam. The psychological reaction of fear certainly isn’t abnormal if the only information the public reads or sees on the news reports are death and destruction. It is the inherent responsibility of academic intellectuals to enlighten the masses with a comprehensive methodical presentation. There must be comparative relationships, and contrasts drawn from the Qur’an, the Jewish Torah, and the Christian New Testament. The intention of this method of inquiry is to establish a higher standard of criticism that has been developed over many centuries. To scholars whose accepted practices include; source criticism, oral formulaic compositions, literary analysis, and structuralism, all quite commonly employed in the study of Judaism, and Christianity. It would be less than honest scholarship not to apply these same standards to the study of the Qur’an and the Hadiths.

  3. I think you raised a very valid point. For the most advanced superpower nation, it is a must that knowledge of Islam along with other faiths should be shared and taught not only at the academia but through out the entire school system. Such an act will resonate with the high profile and USA as the world leader. It will enable the world follow the US model and help reduce the bias and misunderstanding about Islam. Excellent point.

  4. I learned about islam and now i fear it more than anything. I read the hadditha and sunna now I know that mohammed was a psychopathic homicidal pedophile who condoned rape, slavery and murder but abolished alcohol. I then studied the history of Islam after Mohammed and I learned about the first global jihad and the conquest of Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, Europe and Persia by the newly minted muslims.

    You are so correct in saying that Americans in general don’t know enough about islam. They are now starting to find out and it rightfully scares them. Hence the demonstrations. We don’t like sharia, we don’t like mohammed, we don’t like your religion.

  5. informed rational freedom loving people have all the reasons in the world to fear islam, here are 5 of them
    ==========

    islam is a horrible ideology for human rights

    5 key things about islam

    1. mythical beliefs – all religions have these (faith) because its part of being a religion: having beliefs without proof until after the believer dies. the problem is people will believe almost anything.

    2. totalitarianism – islam has no seperation of church and state: sharia law governs all. there is no free will in islam: only submission to the will of allah as conveniently determined by the imams who spew vapors to feather their own nests. there are no moderate muslims: they all support sharia law.

    3. violence – islam leads the pack of all religions in violent tenets for their ideology & history: having eternal canonical imperatives for supremacy at all costs and calling for violence & intimidation as basic tools to achieve these goals.

    4. dishonesty – only islam has dishonesty as a fundamental tenet: this stems from allah speaking to mohamhead & abrogation in the koran which is used to explain how mo’s peaceful early life was superseded by his warlord role later.

    5. misogyny – present day islam is still rooted in 8th century social ethics: treating females as property of men good only for children, severely limiting their activities, dressing them in shower curtains and worse.

    conclusions ??

    there really are NO redeeming qualities for this muddled pile of propaganda.

    islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.