Healing the Pain through Education

Nearly a decade after the 9/11 attacks, many in the U.S. still believe the actions of a tiny minority of violent Islamists is representative of all Muslims and Islam more generally. Yet even in the midst of hateful bigotry and prejudice towards Muslims, much of New York has taken constructive steps towards understanding who Muslims are and what Islam is. The New York Public Library system is just one a few prominent New York institutions that has made efforts to educate the public about Islam.

In collaboration with the Carnegie Corporation and other prominent organizations, the Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam exhibit at the Steven A. Schwarzman library displays Jewish, Christian, and Muslim texts and artifacts, side-by-side. Just one block from Times Square, visitors step into this magnificent hall to learn the shared importance that each tradition places upon Abraham, monotheism, and revelation through the art, calligraphy, and manuscripts on display. The differences highlighted, mostly theological in nature, are not skirted over by any means, however, the similarities between these three Abrahamic religions are what really stand out.

The New York library system and other initiatives around the city are emphasizing the similarities of Islam with Judaism and Christianity, as opposed to discussing Islam by itself. This familiar Abrahamic context helps to make Islam more accessible and understandable. But it isn’t just museum exhibits and speakers at foundations that are creating awareness. Average New Yorkers have gone out of their way to learn more about Islam and Muslims by forming interfaith discussion groups, gaining knowledge of faith, tradition, and culture from practicing Muslims.

Exhibits, lectures, and films are certainly helpful in educating folks about Muslims and Islam around the world, but the most powerful and lasting learning comes from personal experience. A discussion at work, a community project, or other shared experience between non-Muslims and Muslims are what’s needed. Museum exhibits can be one of the first steps in facilitating more interfaith engagement.

Do you think museum exhibits and public lectures are helpful in dispelling Islamophobia within the United States? Are there other efforts that should be made? Are discussions going on in your own community?

6 thoughts on “Healing the Pain through Education

  1. Sorry, but it’s the violent Muslims who best understand what Islam truly is, because that’s how it started out in the 7th cent., declaring war on the non-Muslim world and sending out army after army to conquer the Christian and Zoroastrian worlds, going on to attack India and China. Only after a thousand years did the West finally stop the jihad in Vienna in 1683, after which Islam tried to play wolf in sheep’s clothing to preserve its territorial gains. The existence of a Muslim world where Islam is the official religion shows the ancient battle lines are still intact. Until it opens up to all religions like the West, they will remain, and Westerners are wise to be wary.

  2. This is one “education” for you. This is from a Malaysian government website (http://www.islam.gov.my/en/guidelines-muslims-celebrating-religious-festivals-non-muslims ). The title is “Guidelines For Muslims Celebrating Religious Festivals Of Non-Muslims”. As a Malaysian kafir, my tax money is used for this! And Malaysia touts itself as “moderate” muslim country! Oh, what irony!

    But that’s not the worst of it!

    Also from a Malaysian government web site (http://ikim.gov.my/v5/index.php?lg=1&opt=com_article&grp=1&sec=&key=2238&cmd=resetall) on religious pluralism. In the first para note: “Firstly, Islam rejects religious pluralism which claims that all religions are equally true and equally good. ”

    Now children, that concludes our first class on “Healing the Pain through Education”. Thank you.

  3. @ MoLawn: I don’t see how your comment relates to the piece posted. Your intentions are obviously to vilify Islam and Muslims. Not very productive. There are plenty of things that are screwy with what Muslims do all around the world, but to site the Malaysian Government statements as representative of Islam is misleading as best. The NYT just ran an article on the Vatican covering up sexual abuse within the Church (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/world/europe/19vatican.html?scp=1&sq=vatican,%20abuse&st=cse), but this does not lead to popular vilification of the teachings of the Church. Religious leadership, and certain people who identify as a particular religion do not necessarily represent the essence of what a tradition says. Many religious leaders, governments, peoples have used every religion for political, monetary, and personal gain since the beginning of time. Whatever the Malaysian Government says about Islam has little to do with what Islam says or is.

  4. @Karen: LOL! I am a kafir living in a muslim country. Born and bred (but soon to leave). I am just reporting what is happening, I am not making it up. I sincerely thought I had typed “insideISLAM.wisc.edu” on the address bar. I knew I did because I was there when I did it! I never thought it would be “insideCHRISTIANITY.wisc.edu”. I would’ve typed “insideFLYINGSPAGGHETYMONSTER.wisc.edu” if I had known beforehand.

    I know, you’re trying to put up a straw man argument when you bring up the Vatican. I am not a Christian, so I can’t speak about it. I wouldn’t know the scriptures. But I know there are enough (sane) Christian people who would guarantee me life and liberty if am among them. Can’t say the same about islam though. Sorry. It is then my duty to inform all, of the dangers it poses. I really don’t have to actively vilify it, it does it all by itself, don’t you think? But I suppose you wouldn’t want to hear it. If thats the case, just say so!

    Now, I’ve lived in Malaysia all my life. It touts itself as a “moderate” islamic state. Notice that those links are not to some radical fundamentalist islamic website. Not al-qaeda, al-shabab, or whatever al there is. Those are GOVERNMENT sanctioned and funded, for pete’s sake! If a so-called moderate country could do that, imagine when you are in the grip of islam. You can deny all you want, but there enough people in the world who knows and sees the madness you are trying to promote here. I am not someone who suddenly had an epiphany and saw the “beauty” of islam yesterday and decided to convert today, like most westerners who convert to islam. Of course, an overwhelming number get disillusioned and see for what it is, after a while and drift out it, but they still pose a danger to life and liberty!

    If you DO NOT want to hear from a non-muslim perspective on islam, from someone who has first hand knowledge of living among them, a neutral observer so to speak, please make it plain and clear. We could all sit around, light a fire, and talking about the good news coming out of islam. At least that would be productive, don’t you think?

  5. I think the answer to dispell the myth that all muslims are villains is happening right now through these kinds of events (as in the post) and a million other things – as people mix more inter racially rather than staying separate ( as I am doing more and more in my communtity) and time goes on the truth will be plain to see to everyone that people are people whether muslim, jew, christian or whatever.

    I was raised a Christian and live in England and was at a my sons friends birthday party on the weekend and everyone there was muslim, it was a big family affair, with auties and uncles and friends, I was the only non muslim – it was a beautiful day, these were some of the most beautiful people i have met and i felt honoured to be there – what a nice bunch of people, heart centred, warm and loving. I would love it if my family were this evolved and peaceful.

    Every sect has extremists but as the light keeps growing globally, these people will fade out, it is inevitable.

    Love and Light