Is that enough?

So one of Reza Aslan’s ideas that he presented during his lecture was that the only way for non-Muslims to develop a positive idea about Islam is for them to interact with Muslims and see how normal we are.  He quoted a survey done in the US that showed that people who had met a Muslim has a better image of Islam.  While I can see how this would work in some cases, I don’t agree that interaction is the only issue.

Having lived in Holland for over a year now, I feel that not everyone develops a more balanced idea of Islam after meeting a Muslim. Many Dutch people I know interact with Muslims on a daily basis, or have at least met one at some point, and yet still have quite negative (even Orientalist) ideas about Islam.

I believe that when someone is invested in their way of thinking and their stereotypes, it is very difficult to change that, no matter how often they are confronted with contradictory evidence.  For example, if an Islamophobe meets a “nice” Muslim, they might jst brush it off as an exceptional case.

What do you guys think? Do you think interaction with a Muslim is what will make people less anti-Islamic?

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12 thoughts on “Is that enough?

  1. I suspect interaction with one Muslim might not make a difference but sustained, repeated interaction might. And it would need to go beyond superficial interaction and perhaps include discussion of beliefs and practices.

  2. I agree with you and Zuhura… they’d be more likely to think that the “nice Muslim” was an exception. I can just hear it now lol “Oh that Muslim was so nice, what a pity they all aren’t like that” 😦 but yeah continued interactions would surely (or rather hopefully) make more of an impact.

  3. P.S. I think it also depends on the person itself. One of my friends actually describes himself as a ‘Satanist’ but is very open to discussing Islam and is completely against stereotyping. But others are more than happy to dismiss Islam as a weird religion so I guess we have to work on that one.

  4. I agree with previous comments. A single encounter will likely not make a difference. Sustained or regular interaction or even friendships would more likely make a difference.

  5. Friendships are key! I am a living testimony to how friendships can make people you thought were scary seem so normal and sweet! I went all the way to Syria to meet “my” Muslims and I tell people to this day what lovely people they are!

    I urge my Arab friends to reach out more and more to Americans, share views and friendships so people will realize how much in common they have and celebrate the differences.

  6. I agree with all of you – I feel like a one-time interaction/meeting is not enough. Friendships are more likely to make a difference, although from experience, it is also quite easy for a friend to see you as an exceptional Muslim, rather than the norm.

    I guess I feel that people will believe what they want to, despite strong evidence against it.

  7. I’m also in agreement with everyone else. A single encounter is not going to make a difference, but repeated encounters, having colleagues, or even better friends that are Muslim will certainly make a big difference. I think most of the people that are “scared” of Muslim, is because they don’t KNOW any, it’s normal to fear the unknown!

  8. I have a slightly different view. I must seriously doubt that anyone could change my opinion about religions in general—not just Islam specifically. All religions are after all supposed to be good.

    I can accept that to a certain extent the religion can affect the general attitude of its followers, but that is not always the case. If a person is born with a criminal’s mind, I think he will become one regardless of his religion. I, therefore, tend to see the person, on individual basis, and not so much of his religion. Because I have seen enough good and bad people from all religions. I have many Muslim friends, some are very open-minded, some not so.

    Having said that, however, Islam, to me, is unique because of all the religions that I know, it is the least reflection of a divine being in the background. But maybe that’s simply because I don’t know enough. It (still) allows slavery, for example. Men can marry up to four. Women should cover up, but there is no such necessity for men. We’re allowed to use force, even leading to the loss of lives (Jihad). And many more, although with conditions attached, which to me reflect more of human temperament rather than a Godly being. But again, this maybe because I simply don’t know enough.

    • “I, therefore, tend to see the person, on individual basis, and not so much of his religion.”

      That’s a great way to approach life, and I wish more people would do that.

      All the things you mentioned about Islam are true in certain interpretations, untrue in others. So it depends on what you’ve read about Islam and who you’ve talked to.

  9. I think the idea that a non-Muslim might change his/her idea about Islam by meeting nice Muslims is silly. It’s like hoping a believer will change their mind about atheism just because they meet a nice atheist. People who have negative ideas about Islam are people who have critically studied the Quran, the life of Muhammad, and Islamic history.

    I also think deciding that people who reach the conclusion that Muhammad is not a Prophet from God and that Islam, as envisoned and practiced by Muhammad, is incompatible with life in the 21st century, are “Islamophobes” (a term created by Muslims) is equally silly.

    I also believe that being impressed by people like Reza Aslan, who use sound bites such as “the Ground Zero mosque is not a mosque and it is not at groung zero” is unfortunately naive. I’ve been there. As I walked in the door, I took off my shoes and put them in the little place where you deposit your shoes. Then I walked into the room and watched 60 Muslims pray the evening prayer. Afterwards I walked out the door, turned right to the corner, and turned left to fact the hole where the Twin Towers stood. If you want to believe that is not a mosque, and it is not at ground zero, go ahead.

    I also think it’s important to seriously study the implications of not choosing not to think “rationally” but preferring to think “Islamically”.

    • ‘People who have negative ideas about Islam are people who have critically studied the Quran, the life of Muhammad, and Islamic history.’

      This sentence is so untrue I don’t even know what to say or how to respond! Wow!

      ‘I also think deciding that people who reach the conclusion that Muhammad is not a Prophet from God and that Islam, as envisoned and practiced by Muhammad, is incompatible with life in the 21st century, are “Islamophobes” (a term created by Muslims) is equally silly.’

      Not really, unless you are referring to extremists and then generalizing to the other 1.3 billion Muslims.

      Reza Aslan was talking about the Islamic centre that HASN’T BEEN BUILT YET. So if you have “been there” then you’re talking about somewhere else 🙂

      “I also think it’s important to seriously study the implications of not choosing not to think “rationally” but preferring to think “Islamically”.”

      Clearly you don’t know much about thinking rationally or Islamically, since everything in your comment is untrue – so before you give me advice on how I should think, check your facts before posting.

  10. I think the followers of a religion are SO important in its reputation! So yes, I think that if people had more positive encounters with Muslims they would, with time, have a more positive view of Islam.

    But with the impact the media has on the way people see Islam, the “encounters” people have with Muslims via the media would need to change to more positive ones too to really make a change.

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