I found the lecture by Dr. John Esposito on US in the Muslim World extremely thought-provoking. He made excellent points on prejudices held by Americans about the Muslim community, and certainly backed up his argument with valid examples.
After 9/11, Americans distrust of Islamic people greatly increased. Though validated in their anger, Americans blaming an entire religion for the extremist attacks, would be equivalent to Muslims accusing all Conservative Christians of being abortion clinic bombers, according to Esposito. Furthermore, Americans have often taken issue with the culture of the Middle East people, rather than their controlling government. We have looked at cultural norms rather than foreign policy and claimed that as factors of the corruption in the Middle East. As Dr. Esposito pointed out, the reality is that the government in the Middle East is corrupted and controlled within, and the people are no more pleased with it than westerners are. This system is the way that Mubarak of Isreal and Ben Ali of Tunisia come to power.
Furthermore, according the Esposito, the majority of Middle Easterners respect America, and western culture, they just see us as having a double standard on government. I realized that from their point of view, we give money to the economic policies that support their government’s corruption as it is, while promoting self determination and democratic values in our own country.
In short, Esposito’s recommendation was that voters stay informed on issues so that when voting for America’s leaders, they will put people in power who are familiar with Middle Eastern politics. This struck a chord with me, because previously I had honestly never thought to consider candidates who was interested in needs that may not include those different than me.
In a final word, he recommended we as Americans develop a new framework for how we view Islam, and to begin to understand its core beliefs.
Just in listening to Dr. Esposito my perspective on the Muslim world was changed. I realized how uninformed I am about a group of millions of people, and was called out on my ignorance. Instead of looking at them as Islams who are people, I need to first view them as people who happen to be of faith different than my own. No one deserves to be stereotyped and one small minority of them does not represent the whole.