1--Our Founding Fathers had favorable views toward Islam
2--Thomas Jefferson studied the Qur’an
3--The Obama administration believes that understanding Islam is key to improving the U.S.'s international image
This is quite possibly the emphatic statement by any president about the power of negative stereotypes. And the Muslim case makes the problem with stereotypes clear.
I'd say negative stereotypes have driven most of our domestic policies and many of our foreign policies toward Islam. Why did most Americans support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush's torture policies, Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, airport security restrictions, etc.? Because of irrational fears of Islam based on negative stereotypes.
The same applies to illegal immigrants. Or gays. Why do so many Americans fear them? Because of negative stereotypes. Both groups are going to corrupt our way of life, people think. They're going to turn us into another Sodom and Gomorrah of sin and sloth.
The same applies to Indians. Huge areas of our federal Indian policies--e.g., budget decisions and court cases--are based on stereotypical 19th-century thinking. Namely, that the Europeans "discovered" America. That Indians were savage nomads, not sovereign nations. That we took the land fair and square and don't owe the Indians anything for it.
For more on the subject, see:
Bigots protest brown-skins on 9/11
Conservative bigotry against Islam
All bigotries are similar
Time's "Brief History of Intolerance"
Below: Change the names and this could be any American cartoon expressing bigotry against any minority since 1492.