Fears and emotions still run high in our small community with regard to Muslims. I have noticed many people speak out against the building of a Muslim mosque near the 9-11 attack sites, and I still hear people speaking derogatorily about the Muslim religion in general. I remember during 9-11 when even my son’s surgeon, a pillar of our local Islamic Mosque, was detained and questioned (or so I heard). Death threats and violence occurred all over against Muslims and even our local Islamic mosque was targeted for vandalism. It is shocking and disturbing how perceptions can change for a whole class of people or against a whole religion based on a few isolated incidents. With fears and emotions still high among many of us in this community, I want to applaud the Victoria Advocate for running a story yesterday on the Muslim’s Eid al-Adha holiday and educating the public. The story shows that Muslims share many similarities with Christians on their devotion and commitment to God including sacrifice and fasting.

Another great opportunity for Victoria and area residents is the Islamic scholar Riem Spielhaus. She will be speaking today at UHV in the Alcorn auditorium at 1pm. She has flown all the way from Denmark to speak to Victoria about Muslim immigration, and the similarities between Muslims in Europe and Mexicans coming to the U.S. She hopes to shed some light for us on the different perceptions and misconceptions and the different cultural aspects and identities Muslims bring to our nation.

I had the pleasure of meeting Spielhaus at my Writing for Print Media class last night, and she was kind enough to answer some questions for us students. She reminded us that misperceptions often arise because isolated violent incidents from Muslim extremists are the ones the media exploits and runs again and again to the public. The fact is, is that the majority of Muslims are just like most of us, with similar core values. Most Muslims have a love of family and concern for their safety and welfare. Most Muslims believe in hard work and perseverance, and most trust in God. Most Muslims do not believe that terrorism is acceptable and fear suicide bombers as much as we do.

I’m inviting everyone to hear Riem Spielhaus speak today, and come with an open heart and mind and a willingness to learn. Spielhaus is intelligent, well-spoken with great credentials; she was even an adviser to the commissioner of the German Government. She will be at the UHV Alcorn auditorium today at 1pm. Everyone is welcome to come, hear her lecture and ask questions.

AFTER THE LECTURE...

I attended Islamic Scholar Riem Spielhaus’s lecture yesterday afternoon, and she touched on issues we discussed in class that I mentioned previously in this blog. What was interesting was the dialogue afterwards in the Q &A session she had with the audience. Some questions from the audience were: why do some women and men wear the head gear they do? Isn’t it true that when the economy is failing people will be quick to point the blame on others (i.e. minority groups/Muslims)? There were concerns as Muslim culture become more commonplace in our country, that there may be instances of certain traditional laws (and forgive my ignorance-there is a specific term for them) being enacted here on American soil (i.e. stoning, murdering a raped woman, chopping off hands and feet for offences etc.) Questions of why do so many conservative Christians and Muslims butt heads when their core values are so similar? Spielhaus is NOT Muslim by the way, just an esteemed scholar and adviser on the dynamics of the Muslim Identity, Islamaphobia and immigration and the changes that occur. When Spielhaus talked of the Muslims immigrating to different parts of Europe she talked of the discriminations they faced; having to apply 14x more often than others in order to land a job. Their name and location alerted would be employers that they MIGHT be Muslim, so they were not given interviews. One audience member said that was ‘racism.’ But Spielhaus said this is called ‘ethnicization’ in Europe. The truth is that many were not even practicing Muslims. For example, Iranian immigrants; surveys showed that only 20% are actually practicing Muslims.

Spielhaus also reminded us that someone who ‘looks’ Muslim may not be at all, and someone who doesn’t look Middle Eastern or Muslim-may in fact be so. She reiterated that Muslim immigrants share many American values and ideals including: religious freedom, freedom from persecution, freedom of way of life and the majority want to live in peace with each other; the majority wants to live in peace with us.

On this blog, a few of you have called out for Muslims to publicly voice their outrage over the extremists acts or to police their own religion or to give us examples of the ‘good’ about this religion/philosophy/culture. Without researching, I feel pretty confident that those examples are ALREADY out there-but not newsworthy for mainstream media. We are going to have to search out those examples on our own. Why are the loudest voices we hear are the extremist/violent/hateful? I too would like to see more objective, and well-rounded views of Muslims being shown in the media. I feel too often we are getting the ugly, distorted view-and I often feel I am missing something. I realize I am not getting the full story, and I take it upon myself to educate myself about this. What is it I’m missing, and how can I learn more?

The dialogue that is occurring on this blog is fascinating to me, and I value everyone’s opinion. I thank you all for keeping this discussion pretty civil and mature. I think we can learn from each other, and I feel many of you are trying to understand the other’s viewpoints. This willingness to try is what is exciting to me; this continuing dialogue and trying to understand each other-it is all I ask. I want communication to be honest, no name-calling please, and I want anyone reading this to feel free to contribute.