Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Stephen Poulson, PhD.

Abstract

This paper provides a summary of a day-long seminar organized in a rural community following another local seminar endorsed by the community’s Sheriff concerning the “Muslim Threat.” The Sheriff’s event was held just days before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. During the campaign and in the aftermath of the election, many politicians employed anti-Muslim rhetoric. This seemed to bring to the surface many Islamophobic opinions of elected officials and their electorates which were grounded in fear and misinformation.

A report published by the Pew Research Center states, “Older Americans and those with relatively low levels of educational attainment…tend to be more negative than others in their views about Muslims and Islam” (2017). The researchers found that Americans age 65 years and older were nearly twice as likely as those ages 18 to 29 to agree with the statement that “Islam encourages violence more than other faiths.” The report says that only 14% of college graduates think that “half or more U.S. Muslims are anti-American,” while 31% of respondents with a high school degree or less agreed with the statement (Pew Research Center, 2017).

However, the report also states that “the share [of Americans] who associate Islam with violence has declined by 9 percentage points”—from 50% in September 2014 to 41% in December 2016 (Pew Research Center, 2017). Progress has been made and needs to continue. Seminars addressing the supposed “threat” of Islam are fear-mongering and dehumanize Muslims. Efforts are needed that emphasize the common humanity among Muslims and non-Muslims to help quell extreme views of Islam.

A friend and I set out to offer the community an alternative to the Sheriff’s Islamophobic event. We organized a seminar that provided the community a space to learn about Islam from Muslims. This paper includes information about the community we organized in as well as background about the Sheriff’s event. It also contains detailed information about our organizing efforts from start to finish followed by reflection on the results.

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