Arizona Daily Wildcat: Countering misperceptions: Speaker challenges public's stereotypes of Islam, Muslims

Ahmed Rehab of the Council on American-Islamic Relations spoke to UA students at the Holsclaw Recital Hall on Tuesday about the dangers and misconceptions facing Muslims in today’s society. “It is my belief that Islam and Muslims are highly misunderstood in America. This is mostly because of a slapstick approach to learning about them. The great majority of the American people have a misunderstanding of the culture,” Rehab said.

Over the past few decades, the reputation of Muslims in America has been tarnished because of a series of unfortunate events, said Rehab. While making no excuses for these actions, he suggests that they were portrayed through a filter that would strike fear into the hearts of American citizens.

“You have to know there is good and bad to all people. 99.9 percent of Muslims are not terrorists, never have been and never will be,” Rehab said.

He says the foundation of this prejudice is directly linked to basic principles in psychology. Rehab believes that average Americans do not get information from the proper sources; instead they are casually provided with half-truths and exaggerations.

“The human mind can only output what is input, whatever comes out is a direct result of what originally went in,” Rehab said.

After his presentation, Rehab encouraged the audience to have a conversation with him, believing that just lecturing is simply not enough. He encouraged the audience to ask tough questions, insisting that he had heard it all.

“Dialogue shatters the myth that silence creates,” Rehab said.

“This kind of interaction is crucial for students to understand the impact that prejudice has on Muslim-Americans. I learned that the little things impact people and can destroy their self-esteem,” said junior Audra Mettel.

Helena Rodrigues, project director for ADVANCE and associate director of the Center for Research on Equity and Opportunity presented Rehab with the “UA Speaks, Discusses Award.”

“This is mostly about continuing … the dialogue. We have to understand that it impacts us all. This kind of dialogue is vital and Mr. Rehab is a world leader in trying to repair the damage that has been done,” Rodrigues said.

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