What you think you know about them is likely wrong--and that's dangerous.
How much do Americans know about the views and beliefs of Muslims around the world? According to polls, not much. Perhaps not surprising, the majority of Americans (66%) admit to having at least some prejudice against Muslims; one in five say they have "a great deal" of prejudice. Almost half do not believe American Muslims are "loyal" to this country, and one in four do not want a Muslim as a neighbor.
Why should such anti-Muslim bias concern us? First, it undermines the war on terrorism: Situations are misdiagnosed, root causes are misidentified and bad prescriptions do more harm than good. Second, it makes our public diplomacy sound like double-talk. U.S. diplomats are trying to convince Muslims around the world that the United States respects them and that the war on terrorism is not out to destroy Islam. Their task is made infinitely more difficult by the frequent airing of anti-Muslim sentiment on right-wing call-in radio, which is then heard around the world on the Internet.
Finally, public ignorance weakens our democracy at election time. Instead of a well-informed citizenry choosing our representatives, we are rendered vulnerable to manipulative fear tactics. We need look no further than the political attacks on Barack Obama. Any implied connection to Islam--attending a Muslim school in Indonesia, the middle name Hussein--is wielded to suggest that he is unfit for the presidency and used as fuel for baseless rumors.
Anti-Muslim sentiment fuels misinformation, and is fueled by it--misinformation that is squarely contradicted by evidence.
Why should such anti-Indian bias concern us? First, it undermines the war on inequality: Situations are misdiagnosed, root causes are misidentified and bad prescriptions do more harm than good. Second, it makes our public policy sound like double-talk.
Anti-Indian sentiment fuels misinformation, and is fueled by it--misinformation that is squarely contradicted by evidence.
For more on the subject of anti-Muslim prejudice, see Brotherly Love, American Style. For more on racism in general, see Highlights of the US Report to the UN on Racism.
Below: A perennial target for American prejudice.