Campus & Community

Diversity Summit panel takes on growth of Islamophobia

“Extremism and Islamophobia in Perspective” was one of dozens of workshops presented today as part of the 2016 Diversity Summit at the University of Denver. DU faculty members Nader Hashemi, Seth Masket and Andrea Stanton made up the panel focusing on “U.S. and Extremism.” They were joined by Joanne Cummings, a career Foreign Service Officer and current faculty member at the United States Air Force Academy.

Each panelist brought varying perspectives to the panel, but all agreed that Islamophobia in the U.S. is a growing problem.

Stanton, an assistant professor of religious studies who focuses on Islamic Studies and the Middle East, said that 58 percent of Americans “believe that the values of Islam are at odds with American values and the American way of life.” She added that nearly 70 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence.

However, she said, 86 percent of American Muslims say acts of violence against civilians is unjustified.

Many audience members then asked the panelists what could be done to help eradicate the anti-Muslim sentiment that is proliferating in the U.S. Masket, chair of DU’s political science department, said that it doesn’t work to shame people about their beliefs. It is about education and familiarizing yourself with the community, he said. Hashemi, director of the University’s Center for Middle East Studies, added that when it comes to these beliefs, what concerns him more is the in-your-face displays of Islamophobia. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘To what extent am I responsible for perpetuating the problem?’” Hashemi said.

Cummings’ presentation focused on foreign policy and how deciding what the U.S. will do regarding various views about Muslims is a challenging task. She shared her knowledge and experience as a diplomat having served in the Middle East.

“Policies are formulated and discussed in Washington,” Cummings explained, “but where we engage is on the ground in Muslim countries. As diplomats, we can tell political leaders what’s actually happening because we’re on the ground.”

She said that our fear of what could happen to diplomats abroad is hindering them from talking to people. During her time in Yemen, she said, diplomats were only allowed to speak with people who would come to the embassy — but those who would come often avoided what was actually going on outside the embassy walls.

“As diplomats,” she said, “we need to take the risk (to talk to the people on the ground) so that we don’t fall into a trap and rely on what other people are saying and filtering when we can’t judge for ourselves.”

Following the panel, participants joined in a workshop where they could address Islamophobia in practical ways and discuss how to engage in outreach across lines of difference.



  1. With all due respect to innocent Muslims, Islamophobia (a term concocted by Islamists) will disappear when Islamic violence and persecution of other religions disappear. In virtually every Muslim-majority country, religious minorities are persecuted. Today there is a program of genocide directed towards Christians in the Middle East. Fortunately, we are not subjecting American Muslims to this kind of persecution.

    Yes, there are negative perceptions about Islam. The more you research Islam, especially as a political ideology, the more troubling it is. I encourage people to educate themselves as to the Koran, the hadith and the life of the Prophet Mohammad. Then you will understand why these horrific things are happening. Islam seriously needs reform so that we can all co-exist together. It is not us who need to re-examine our feelings about Islam.

    • Musa Murawih says:

      It is unfortunate that the Christians of the Middle East are being persecuted and targeted. But so are the vast majority of Muslims who constitute most of Daesh’s victims. One fact remains, though. Despite everything, there are still Christians in the Middle East after 1400 years of Islam. Yet it took Christian Spain about a century or two to wipe out centuries of enlightened Muslim and Jewish presence. One of these days we need to use social science to explain what’s going on in the Middle East, and not read history as we see convenient. It’s really puzzling to see some people like Mr. Fouse who are still stuck in the 7th century literature of the likes of John of Damascus. You need to take a calculator and see how much mass death and destruction of life and environment in this world has been caused by Christian nations. Then we can talk about Muslim violence. I can’t think of anything more violent that modern world wars and nuclear bombs. Have those also been instigated by Muslims?

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