Posted by on December 08, 2011 in Blog

On Tuesday, AAI co-sponsored a town hall meeting on Islamophobia in Philadelphia with the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at Villanova University. AAI Executive Director Maya Berry, Matt Duss of the Center for American Progress (CAP), and Villanova Professor Marwan Kreidie moderated the discussion which was attended by over 100 community members and students. The panel addressed a multitude of questions about Islamophobia, the perceived threat of Sharia in the United Sates and the network behind what Center for American Progress has identified as Fear Inc. Matt Duss, co-author of CAP’s report, Fear Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, explained what the report found – a vast and incredibly potent contingent of scholars, validators and activists perpetuating anti-Muslim propaganda in political discourse and civil society.

Engaging the audience, Berry described how anti-Muslim fervor is playing out both in Washington and at the state level, specifically with regard to anti-Sharia legislation. In addition to detailing the surge in state specific anti-Sharia bills, Berry detailed growing opposition to mosques; a phenomenon that the ACLU reported is nation-wide. Citing statements by key public figures such as former presidential candidate Herman Cain, New York Congressman Peter King and Arizona Senator John McCain, Berry described a culture that exists in U.S. politics where bigoted statements about Arabs and Muslims are disturbingly common. The audience expressed a desire to help alter the discourse, asking how one could engage in efforts to combat bigotry aimed at American Muslims and Islam.

Earlier in the day, Berry, Duss and Kreidie met with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Committee, which includes officials from the U.S. State Attorney General’s office, local law enforcement and representatives of Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter’s administration, to discuss Islamophobia in law enforcement. As the head of the Philadelphia Arab American Development Corp., Kreidie meets regularly with the Philadelphia Civil Rights Task Force where he and other community leaders voice community concerns and advise on issues with respect to law enforcement and community engagement. Kreidie’s work with Pennsylvania law enforcement was instrumental in the termination of a controversial, anti-Muslim Pennsylvania State Police training course.



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