Religious Freedom Annual Review 2016 Thursday Afternoon Workshop: Muslims, America, and Religious Freedom

by Reed Adlish

In his Thursday, 7 July 2016 workshop, “Muslims, American, and Religious Freedom”, Imam Muhammad Musri emphasized that Muslims have much more in common with other faiths than is often reported. Imam Musri, Senior Imam, President and Chairman of the Board of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, shared statistics that the vast majority of violent acts carried out by Muslims occur against other Muslims (and not against non-Muslims), and are usually politically motivated.  Despite this fact, there is still a big gap as to how Muslims are perceived in the United States. Imam Musri showed recent data which indicates that among Evangelical Pastors, a large portion view Islam as a threat and believe that it has very little in common with modern Christianity. Imam Musri stated that, in actuality, Islam and Christianity are very similar.

Imam Musri also explained that as a result of the misinformation disseminated by several mainstream media outlets, there is a growing tide of anti-Islamic sentiment. He showed clips from prominent news organizations that depict Muslims as terrorists, and show citizens taking up arms in order to protest the presence of Muslims within the country. By focusing on similarities rather than differences between religions and people, Imam Musri believes peace can be had by all.

As an example, Imam Musri illustrated the disparity in how the media reports mass shootings. In the Orlando nightclub shooting, it was widely reported that the shooter professed a belief in Islam, while the religion of the shooter in the Sandy Hook massacre was rarely brought up in the national dialogue. Additionally, the first FBI responder in the Orlando shooting, who heroically saved lives, was a practicing Muslim, but this fact, according to Imam Musri, was also not reported. Imam Musri concluded by encouraging the facilitation of a dialogue between people of all faiths, and by encouraging non-Muslims to get to know other Muslims, in order to break down several barriers that contribute to Islamophobia.