News / USA

US Attitudes Toward Islam Explored

Multimedia

Audio

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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs