By Javad Heirannia

Europeans and Americans are extremely ignorant about Islam: professor

May 3, 2016

TEHRAN - Prof. William O. Beeman, head of the anthropology department at the State University of Minnesota, says “Europeans and Americans are extremely ignorant about Islam.”

Beeman tells the Tehran Times since “Westerners know so very little about the religion, they tend to equate ISIS and its actions (also Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, and the Taliban) with ALL of Islam.”

However terrorist groups such Daesh have terribly tarnished the image of Islam in the eyes of the people in the world, the professor laments.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What is the Westerners’ understanding of Islam?

A: Europeans and Americans are extremely ignorant about Islam. Many think that "Allah" is a pagan god. They don't understand the continuity between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They are surprised to hear that Islam reveres Moses, Abraham and Jesus. Islam is not taught in elementary and high schools. For most students the only time to learn about Islam is in college. Many writers such as Karen Armstrong, Carol Delaney and Reza Aslan have written popular books to try to educate Westerners about Islam, but in general the population remains ignorant and prejudiced.

Because there is general ignorance about the Islamic world, violent Islamic groups have become identified with all Muslims.”

Q: Why are we seeing verbal attacks, especially in the recent years, on Islam and Prophet Muhammad (S) in the West?

A: The violence in the Middle East gets all the press. This has caused ignorant people to equate Islam with violence. You hear terrible distortions such as politicians saying: "All Muslims are terrorists." Donald Trump has been a major influence, calling for the banning of all Muslims from the United States. We also have the Paris, Belgian and California attacks for which Muslim groups were blamed. Because there is general ignorance about the Islamic world, these violent Islamic groups have become identified with all Muslims.

Q: How do you see the role of extremist groups such as Daesh in presenting a distorted image of Islam?

A: ISIS/ISIL/DAESH has been terrible for the image of Islam. Because Westerners know so very little about the religion, they tend to equate ISIS and its actions (also Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, and the Taliban) with ALL of Islam. The media has been very influential. There is an old saying in journalism: If it bleeds, it leads. This means that violence and bloodshed get more attention in the press than "good news." Islam is not centrally organized. We do have the Muslim Anti-Defamation league <www.adl.org> that tries to counteract prejudice and discrimination, but they are very underfunded.


 

 

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