According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, when people were asked for the single word that best describes their impression of Islam, far more Americans mention negative words than positive ones (30 percent versus 15 percent); roughly a quarter (23 percent) characterize the religion with neutral words; about a third (32 percent) do not offer an opinion. One of the main reasons for these disturbing numbers is that people are not aware of what Islam actually is.
As students who spend four years trying to scratch the surface of a single subject, it may be more obvious to us that 1,400 years of religious philosophy and tradition cannot be understood based on a 30 second sound byte from CNN or Fox. Those who rely on such news outlets as their sole source of information on Islam will have an incomplete and typically erroneous view of it. Unfortunately, this can perpetuate false stereotypes and discriminatory actions towards Islam.
This is why we invite you to join us at the various community service, interfaith, social and educational events that the GW Muslim Students’ Association hosts on campus. The MSA is not just for Muslims; the goal is to offer a diverse, open community for all on the GW campus. The MSA creates communication between those of the Muslim faith and those who want to learn about it. For example, this year’s Islam Awareness Week, themed “Dialogue of Civilizations,” included the events “An Islamic Portrait of Jesus” and “Virgin Mary in the Islamic Tradition.” Tuesday, the MSA and the Jewish Students’ Association are teaming up to show an episode of The West Wing in the hopes of dispelling some of the prominent stereotypes about both faiths.
While a one-hour episode is not enough to dispel years of stereotyping, starting a discussion is the first step to scratching the surface of the religion of Islam. We hope these discussions will continue and with them a more comprehensive view of Islam will be realized.
MSA Executive Board, JSA Executive Board, Student Association President Nicole Capp and Executive Vice President Brand Kroeger.