By Molly Rossiter, The Gazette
IOWA CITY – American Muslims are facing ‘a rising tide of Islamophobia’ that is worse than it was post-Sept. 11, panelists said last night.
‘It wasn’t really as bad after Sept. 11 as it is now,’ said Miriam Amer, executive director and founder of the Iowa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in Cedar Rapids. ‘Islamophobia has been sustained by propaganda.’ Amer was one of four panelists speaking at, ‘Islamophobia: Intolerance and the First Amendment,’ presented by the University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights and the University’s Muslim Student Association. Other panelists were Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of the Iowa Interfaith Alliance; Imam Taha Tawil of the Mother Mosque of North America; and Adrien Wing, the UI’s Bessie Dutton Murray professor of law.
Islamophobia, described as the fear of or prejudice against Islam and Muslims, is growing in the Western world, particularly as politicians and the media use that fear to fuel their own agendas, Ryan Terrell said.
‘It has been fanned by pundits and hatemongers, and the climate has now become ‘us versus them,’ ‘ she said. ‘Religious freedom is a hallmark of the United States. Why are some so willing to set it aside?’ Wing cautioned that the ‘hatemongers’ that came on strong leading up to the Nov. 2 elections will only get worse as the 2012 presidential election nears.
‘We haven’t seen anything yet,’ she said.
She encouraged the more than 100 people in the audience to use the Thanksgiving holiday to talk to their families about diversity, understanding and tolerance.
‘I think it is incumbent upon all of us to get involved,’ she said.
Tawil questioned the disdain for human diversity when it’s accepted in other groups.
‘We appreciate the diversity of cats and dogs and flowers and trees,’ he said. ‘Why don’t we appreciate the diversity of each other?’