‘Islamophobia a tool of public manipulation’

A leading voice of American Muslims, Dalia Mogahed, told more than 450 students, faculty, and community members at the University of Washington Bothell that Islamophobia – anti-Muslim bigotry based on irrational fear of Islam – is a threat to all because it is used as a tool of public manipulation.

Dalia Mogahed

(Marc Studer photos)

Surveys showed Islamophobia did not correspond to perceived threat of terrorism as much as it did to the run-up to the Iraq War and the 2008 and 2012 elections – manufacturing consent for war and politics, said Mogahed, above left.

“Islamophobia is not organic,” she said. “It is manufactured. It is a tool of public manipulation.”

Mogahed’s lecture in Discovery Hall Wednesday evening was sponsored by the American Muslim Research Institute and the office of the chancellor. It was moderated by Karam Dana, right, assistant professor of Middle East and Islamic studies at UW Bothell, and founding director of the institute.

Karam Dana

Dana asked Mogahed about the commitment to keep Washington open to refugees demonstrated by Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell.

“They will be remembered to have stood on the right side of history” Mogahed said.

A video of Mogahed’s lecture received more than 5,500 views in less than 24 hours. It was an important and timely lecture, Dana said.

“These have been very difficult times, for not only American Muslims,” he said, “as they highlight and question larger dynamics of American values like religious freedom and inclusion in today’s political landscape.”

Mogahed also says this is a “time of uncertainty, upheaval and opportunity for our country.”

Dalia Mogahed

A consultant and commentator who was born in Cairo, Egypt, and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, Mogahed is the director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C. She coauthored the book “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think,” and served on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Her 2016 TED talk was named one of the top TED talks that year.

Islamophobia is fueled by fear, and fear “makes us more accepting of authoritarianism, conformity and prejudice – three corrosive elements to the foundation of a free society,” she said. “Fear kills freedom.”

Mogahed urged her audience to replace fear with fact and enmity with empathy. Acknowledging she was “preaching to the choir,” she challenged the audience to become ambassadors – taking the message beyond the “choir” to friends and family.

Dalia Mogahed and friends

She also urged her listeners to call out bias in the media, to recognize Muslim contributions to American society and politics, to get involved in politics and to build a more pluralistic America.

“Islamophobia, I believe, is a threat to every single American. This is not about the 1 percent who claim Islam. It’s about the 100 percent who believe in freedom and democracy in America,” Mogahed said.

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