News / USA

US Attitudes Toward Islam Explored

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

The leader of a small U.S. Christian church says he has called off his plan to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday, but his original intention and the public outcry against the construction of an Islamic center in New York City underscore what some see as heightened animosity toward and fear of Muslims and Islam in the United States. Experts say so-called "Islamophobia" exists, but that it appears to be more on the fringes of U.S. society than in the mainstream.

Correspondent Michael Bowman discusses whether Americans are "Islamophobic":

Nine years after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, fear and distrust of Muslims live on in the United States.  Mosques have suffered vandalism, a Muslim cab driver was stabbed after acknowledging his faith, and Pastor Terry Jones insists he will burn the Quran.

Many Muslim-Americans can give first-hand accounts of being targeted for their faith.

Danette Zaghari-Mask says that in her hometown of Orlando, Florida, she was verbally abused by a stranger who said she dresses like a terrorist.  "And I was so shocked."  A mother of three, she said she worries more for her young children than for herself.

"I am a big girl and I can put up with that kind of hostility, but it is really difficult to explain that to a young child who is developing their sense of self-esteem," said Zaghari-Mask.    "We do not want our Muslim-American children to look at the world as 'us' and 'them.'  We are all one human race."

A random sampling of opinion in Washington reveals that some people bear animosity toward Muslims and Islam.

Richard Pullen, visiting Washington from the West Coast state of Oregon, said, "To me, it is a cult. You saw what they did on 9/11 (11 Sep 2001).  To me, that was taking away our freedom, when we were trying to live here, work here and be peaceful.  And they come and attack us."

Most people with whom VOA spoke, however, with had a different outlook.

Maryland resident Todd Heffert said, "I think everybody should celebrate the diversity of America.  Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Scientology - it really does not matter."

Washington, D.C., resident Shelly Han said, "Most people do not understand what the tenets of Islam are.  It is the culture that is associated with Islam that is scary to people.  We are definitely at a point where we need more reasonable voices."

Indian immigrant Majit Singha said, "This country welcomes immigrants from all different faiths and countries.  There is nothing to fear of a belief or a practice from another culture that is different."

Leading figures of all major faiths gathered here in Washington to defend religious freedom and plea for tolerance.

Brent Walker heads the Baptist [Christian] Committee for Religious Liberty.  "We honor God and we honor country by loving our neighbors through seeking religious liberty for everyone," said Walker.

Rabbi David Saperstein has a similar message.  "We know what it is like, when people have attacked us verbally, attacked us physically, and others have remained silent.  It cannot happen here in America in 2010."

Muslim-Americans practice their faith and engage in prayer, Sep 2010
Muslim-Americans practice their faith and engage in prayer, Sep 2010

Meanwhile, prominent Muslim-Americans recognize the need to reach out and educate their fellow-citizens.

Ingrid Matson, who directs the Islamic Society of North America, said "I understand that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about Islam and about Muslims in this country.  And I do not blame ordinary Americans, who are very busy and do not have a lot of information, for feeling confused and anxious.  It is our job to provide better information about what Muslims believe and what Islam is."

At different times, practitioners of other faiths also have faced ridicule and suspicion in the United States, including Mormons, Catholics and Jews.  Some observers see the recent flare-up of Islamophobia as a highly-publicized, but temporary deviation from America's historic embrace of religious freedom and diversity.

Head of the religious freedom project at Washington's Newseum, Charles Haynes, points out that the plan to burn the Quran is an isolated act, Sep 2010
Head of the religious freedom project at Washington's Newseum, Charles Haynes, points out that the plan to burn the Quran is an isolated act, Sep 2010

The head of the religious freedom project at Washington's Newseum, Charles Haynes, points out that the plan to burn the Quran is an isolated act.

"This little church in Florida of 30 members does not represent the United States of America.  The United States of America is represented by hundreds, if not thousands, of mosques and Islamic centers in this country that are thriving.  Islamic schools where people are free to practice Islam, as almost nowhere else in the world.  That is America, and that is the future of America," said Haynes.

A future without hostility toward Islam is one that cannot come soon enough for Muslim-American families.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid