By Alex Balletto – Copy Editor
The Lasell community gathered in de Witt hall to hear Dr. Amer Ahmed discuss Islamophobia on January 25. Amhed, a prominent national speaker, serves as Director of Intercultural Teaching and Faculty Development at UMass-Amherst.
The presentation, “Addressing Islamophobia: Dispelling myths to break down barriers” was sponsored by the Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion.
“Dr. Amhed’s engaging and enlightening presentation helped to clarify the shared values, similarities, and good will of local and global Muslim communities, which are often overlooked,” said Jesse Tauriac, Director of the Donahue Institute.
Amhed began the presentation with a hip-hop performance and shared the Muslim value of peace. He jumped into racial profiling, and discussed how many people are perceived as Muslims, though do not follow the faith. Islam was compared to Christianity and other dominant religions in America. Amhed advised the community to read up on early colonization to understand, with the historical contexts, religion, and conflict.
Senior Armando Machado Jr. valued the presentation on history and the present day views many hold on Islam. “It was great to see someone so passionate about dispelling stereotypes,” he said.
Amhed talked about how the “media distorts” Islam. He discussed myth versus reality, specifically women’s rights, violence and the Jihad “struggle.” Amhed pointed out how the Christmas tree and Christianity are often connected, saying it’s the perfect example of religion-culture blur.
Prof. Tauriac, aware of the many misconceptions about Islam, echoed Amhed’s sentiment about our society. “Increasingly, public figures have stoked fear about the Muslim community for political, financial or personal gain,” he said.
Amhed addressed the media’s involvement in spreading Islamophobic sentiment across the nation. He shed light on Pastor Jones, who once sponsored “Burn a Quran Day.”
“We have a lot of conflict in the world and it can only be resolved when we truly understand each other. You can’t let the news force you to make judgments about an entire demographic,” Machado said. He also hopes speakers, like Ahmed, “get more recognition in the future.”
“More education about the facts – rather than myths and misconceptions – strengthens our resistance to false propaganda,” said Tauriac.
Amhed said less than one percent of the U.S. population follows Islam, and as a result, Muslims’ voices are silenced. He urged the audience to have that voice.