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Monday, August 30, 2010


Arachnophobia: The fear of spiders
Omphalophobia: The fear of Belly Buttons
...and the list goes on.

Our culture creates and appropriates words to fit the current situation. We even re-name certain events or individuals as our culture sees fit. For example, a cel phone gets you in touch with your friends outside of class, but in class teachers call it a "mobile educational device" (if used for lessons, that is).

Recently, American culture has developed a hypersensitivity to Islamic culture. In recent news, we've heard about unrest in Florida and the possibility of burning the Koran.

What doesn't hit the daily news is that we are making assumptions about Islamic women in the workplace (yes, even us teachers!) The following is a scene from the film Arranged during an ice breaking session where Nasirah was asked by the headmistress to tell a little about herself

Perhaps this is a reaction to our age-old Crusading history, or the more recent historical event of 9/11. Whatever the case, it is important to consider our stereotypes and where they come from: the media (who, keep in mind, represent "terrorists" as Islamic extremists. Have you seen a media example of a "moderate" Islamic?)

More interesting still is ethnicity of terrorist attacks on American soil. According to the FBI, most terrorists between 1980 and 2005 were NOT Islamic:

Keep in mind this chart does not include the number killed by these terrorists (and the media attention given to those events) but it does illustrate our lack of attention to the facts, and our over-sensitivity to Islamic persons in the media.

The Islamic community, and our supposed all-inclusive American culture, suffers. Even our international image suffers (not in English...the beauty of cartoon is that you can follow easily):

And so, to accommodate our current culture needs, we coin a new word:Islamophobia.

The Mosque at Ground Zero
I understand that the terrorists were operating under extremist beliefs. However, many Muslims do not ascribe to this ideology (most do not believe that the Koran preaches violence). America has two Islamic congressman (that's it?!). Read their perspective.

When I see the latest issue of the Globe (not exactly credible, but still printed and placed in the public eye at the Grocery store) proclaiming that Obama is Muslim I start to wonder...and sweat. Ok, so JFK being Catholic was buzz worthy at the time...but Obama's portrayed Islamic roots are meant as a fear tactic or smear campaign. The fact that any ties to Islam could discredit a political figurehead in American portray the stinted and drastically detrimental nature of the "Terrorist" stereotype in our country.

How to teach tolerance?
1. Teach empathy-this decreases bullying against Islamic students, too.
2. Intercultural perspectives-Skype with a class abroad!
3. Teach history lessons-what are Islamic cultures like today?
4. Debunk stereotypes-How do Islamic women live? What about head coverings? It's not all the same!

Recently France has banned the headscarf, and Turkey does not allow them in colleges. Liberation or discrimination? Let the students talk it out to maximize learning and open discussion.

1 comment:

  1. it is sad. every element in society, be it political, religious, environmental, even business, has its extreme wings; and, I agree w/ you: media is especially the main agent of provocateur here


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