UA News: American-Islamic Council Head to Speak on Campus

The executive director of the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group will be at The University of Arizona Thursday for a discussion about the discrimination that Muslim-Americans face.

Ahmed Rehab, who heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, will present his Oct. 16 lecture, “Dialogue Shatters the Myth that Silence Creates: Stereotypes and the Muslim Community.”

Rehab will be speaking at the UA School of Music, 1017 N. Olive Road, in the Holsclaw Recital Hall.

The 3 p.m. event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the UAdiscusses…Distinguished Speaker Series 2008 – 2009, hosted by the UA’s Diversity Resource Office in partnership with The Center for Research on Equity and Opportunity. A reception will follow.

“This event will help us gain an understanding of how stereotypes about Muslim-mericans may be harming our ability to provide the best educational experience possible to students,” said Raji A. Rhys, director of the UA’s Diversity Resource Office.

“It will also help us to acquire practical tools we can use to ensure we are each doing our part to ensure that we are creating an environment where everyone can reach their full potential,” Rhys added.

Rehab’s visit is sponsored by several UA units: the Diversity Resource Office; Center for Research on Equity and Opportunity; ADVANCE, Near Eastern Studies; Department of Psychology; Division of Student Affairs, Asian American Faculty, Staff and Alumni Association; Vice President for Instruction; and the President’s Office.

The Cairo-born Rehab, who has a background as a chemical engineer and Russian interpreter, moved to the United States with his family in 1992.

Rehab, who is well traveled and widely published in national and international media, spent some time working in Kenya as part of a U.S. delegation and, when he returned to the states, began working more rigorously on issues affecting the Muslim-American community. One of his greatest concerns is the prejudice Muslims face in the post-Sept. 11 era.

His council has reported that, based on a number of polls, Americans tend to know very little about Islam and about Muslims.

The council also reported that, since 2004, it has received an increasing number of reports of instances of anti-Muslim hate crimes being committed.

Also, a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Poll reported in 2004 found that 46 percent of Americans polled believed that Islam is more likely than other religious groups to encourage violence.

During Thursday’s event, Rehab will talk about stereotypes those within the Muslim-American community face and also discuss ways in which those biases are not only harmful to the Muslim community, but to all people.

“This is not about being PC, it is about being academically excellent,” Rhys said. “There is an enormous amount of research that shows that a diverse campus and inclusive campus environment in terms of policies and practices results in better learning for all students.”

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