Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Blog

This evening, AAI President Jim Zogby will participate on a panel at a day-long event held at the Washington National Cathedral hosted by the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. The event, entitled Religious Diversity in America: The American Muslim Experience, aims to build on a summit held last year in Lebanon, a country with a history of sectarian division and inter-religious violence. The Lebanon summit aimed to address ways different faith groups can work together during times of religious and sectarian strife. The summit in Washington today focuses on the current status of the American Muslim community with the stated objective “to identify opportunities to strengthen America’s commitment to religious tolerance and public appreciation for the nation’s religious diversity.”

“We are especially interested in addressing misunderstandings many Americans have about their fellow citizens who are Muslim and about Islam as a religion,” the organizers wrote in a release about the event. With tensions escalating recently in the Middle East and on the heels of an especially rancorous election season which saw the American Muslim community attacked by candidates and elected officials, the summit could not have come at a more important time.

At the Arab American Institute, we have conducted research and tracked much of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that has been thrown in political discourse. In 2010, during contrived controversy over the Islamic community center in mosque in lower Manhattan, AAI polled on American opinions of Arabs and Muslims. The results indicated that in the eight years after the September 11 attacks, opinions of Arab and Muslims had deteriorated to an all-time low since 2001. There was hope, however, when the majority of respondents said that they needed to know more about Arabs and Muslims. When AAI polled again this year in August, we found that Americans still have negative views of Arabs and Muslims and that a troubling trend of increased negative opinions of Arabs and Muslims existed across age and political party lines, in part as a consequence of the vitriol in political discourse.  

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