The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is nearly upon us, and the tragedy’s profound effects on our national psyche still linger.
Among the most pronounced of these, I think, is the collective negative opinion our country has of Islam. This phenomenon is evident every day on the 24-hour news stations.
Frequent TV-news guests like Robert Spencer and Brigitte Gabriel are given seemingly endless airtime to expound the idea that Islam encourages violence and is incompatible with the American way of life. It’s comparatively very rare to see an actual Muslim given the chance to explain their faith for themselves.
That’s why the Lobo’s Multimedia Editor, Junfu Han, and I decided to make a documentary about the Muslim experience in post-9/11 America. Our film, Religion of Peace, features Muslim students and professors from UNM as well as members of the wider Islamic community.
We feel the movie is important because it allows an often-marginalized segment of society to have a voice in a media landscape that tends to silence them. The people in the film, Muslims from diverse parts of the world and widely varying backgrounds, are given the opportunity to speak about what Islam means to them and correct common misperceptions about their faith.
The following excerpts are taken from the film, which debuts tonight in the SUB.
Umar Malik, Muslim Student Association Board Member: “I used to play basketball with one of my neighbors up the street and almost every day we used to play. And I remember specifically after 9/11, I went over to his house to play basketball… and he came outside and said his dad wouldn’t let him play with me anymore because I was Muslim.”
Maryam Chudnoff, Muslim Community Member: “Right away, people’s perception is ‘This is a religious act,’” she said. “Murder is never a religious act, I don’t care who says it is. It is never a religious act—at least not in any religion that I know of…
Definitely whoever controls the media controls the population and a scared population is much easier to manipulate and control in general. If there is an attack somewhere, they are going to run it into the ground about how it is this sect of people and how it is part of their horrible culture, and violence is part of their culture and religion.”
Mohamed Ali, Professor of Arabic: “Muslims are good people… There are bad Muslims, there are bad Christians, there are bad Jews.
There are bad people from every single faith. That does not make them representative of that faith. People can commit acts of violence in any name they choose to.”
Khadija Chudnoff, Muslim Community Member: “You don’t have time to look through what is true and what is false. And when you’re getting paid the big bucks to have this story about how (Muslims) treat their women … that is what you are going to want to report.
“How can I rely on them (the media) when … I’ve read one thing and they are saying something completely different, and I know it’s wrong?”
Religion of Peace: Media (mis)Perceptions of Islam Ten Years After 9/11
SUB Ballroom A
Peace and Justice Center (202 Harvard SE)