Islamophobia in America: it can be defeated

Dr. Reza Aslan speaks on Islamophobia to a sold-out Schofield Auditorium Wednesday night

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Photo by Faith Hultman

Together, we can all keep America beautiful: Dr. Reza Aslan gives lecture on Islamophobia in the Schofield Auditorium Wednesday night.

Dr. Reza Aslan, a prominent religious scholar, gave a lecture concerning the rise of Islamophobia in America and how it can be defeated on Wednesday night to a sold-out crowd of students, faculty and community members in the Schofield Auditorium

Aslan, who is a creative writing professor at the University of California and the author of several books including #1 New York Times Bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, gave an hour lecture followed with a question and answer session.

America is different than most countries, Aslan said. While other national identities are built on some kind of homogeneity, be that religious or ethnic, generations of immigrants have been able to “feel” or “become” American.

“America is built on shared values, not religion,” Aslan said.

Currently, 56 percent of Americans believe Islam is at odds with American value, while 46 percent believe Islam is more likely to incite violence, and 61 percent have a negative view of Islam, Aslan said.

The immediate aftermath of 9/11 was not nearly as violent as today, Aslan said. He said 2015 set a record for the number of attacks on mosques.

The majority of ISIS’ victims are Muslim and, the majority of people fighting ISIS are Muslims, he said.

“So if ISIS is Muslim and their victims are Muslim and the people who are fighting them are Muslim,” Aslan said, “that really doesn’t say anything about Islam. Certainly nothing that you can make some generalization about.”

Aslan also said that white Christian killers such as Anders Breivik and Robert Lewis Dear, who are not deemed terrorists, have been mislabeled.

“More Americans have died at the hands of right wing terrorists in this country than at the hands of Islamic terrorists,” Aslan said. “You are more likely to be shot by a toddler than killed by a terrorist.”

Muslims are the least likely religious group in America to condone violence, Aslan said. Statistically, 40 percent of Muslims have college degrees, compared to 29 percent of the general population; 70 percent of Muslim immigrants are citizens compared to 40 percent of the general immigrant population.

“The data speaks for itself,” Aslan said. “This is the problem with data. It doesn’t really do what it’s supposed to do.”

Bigotry is rooted in fear and no amount of data can change a person’s mind, Aslan said, relationships are what change people’s minds.

“The single greatest determinant to your views about Islam is whether you know a Muslim or not,” Aslan said. “If you know one Muslim, it cuts in half your negativity rating of Islam.”

Aslan said that the thing he loves about the American identity is that it’s based on a set of shared values and principles.

We are about 10 years from being the first country in the world to be majority minorities. Which he said is incredible, and no other country is nearly as close to achieving this.

The America that celebrates its diversity, that allows every community to come and make it their own is the America we were taught about in school, Aslan said.

“Every single individual here, Muslim or not, is responsible for that America,” Aslan said, “because that America comes only when we break down the walls of different ethnicities and cultures and nationalities and races and religions, and begin to actually see each other as human beings.”

Tessa Schiller, a junior at Eau Claire, attended the forum and said Aslan did a great job presenting his speech.

“I think Islamophobia is definitely something we need to tackle,” Schiller said.