U.S. and Islamophobia discussion hopes to resolve misconceptions, create a conversation

September 19, 2016

Rachel Librach

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     When stigmas and stereotypes are formed, creating a discussion about difficult topics can sometimes have the reverse effect.

     The Kraemer Family Library will host a talk, U.S. and Islamophobia, Sept. 19-21 in the library’s third floor Apse from 5-7 p.m.

     Carole Woodall, event organizer and historian of the modern Middle East, said she decided to host these events due to the effects this political season has on the growing fear and misconception of Islam.

     The term “Islamophobia” came from University of California, Berkeley and simply means the fear of Islam. This fear stems from not knowing or understanding something or somebody, according to Woodall.

     “2008 was the benchmark year for the increase in general Islamophobia. There was that connection or assumption that Obama is Muslim and special interest groups tended to spread these fears and misconceptions,” said Woodall.

     A different speaker will discuss different topics relating to the Middle East each day.

     Emily Skop, director of the UCCS Global Intercultural Research Center, will begin the first event with the topic “Refugees 101.”

     Next, Jefferey Scholes, assistant professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life, will discuss “Christianity and Islamophobia.”

     On the third day, Edin Mujkic assistant professor in school of Public Affairs will discuss “A Muslim threat: Real or Perceived?”

     The events are cosponsored by UCCS Diversity and Inclusiveness, Global Intercultural Research Center, College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, School of Public Affairs and Just Talk.

     Woodall hopes that these events will engage students, faculty, staff and community members.

     “Our hope is that faculty and students take away a more (complex) understanding of the relationship between (the) U.S. and Islamophobia,” said Woodall.

     “We want them to consider strategies on how to recognize this fear, what to do about it and how to deal with the idea of being labeled as an ‘other’ in an American society,” said Woodall.

     “At the end of the day, we just want people to realize that, although we identify and define ourselves as a community of citizens, we are still individuals who are all connected through this university,” she said.

     Woodall added that the UCCS campus is the perfect place to host these events because of the different environment of a university.

     “We should have a platform that allows for insightful and engaging talks about these complicated issues,” she said.

     These events will also address violence against Islam and discuss ways that people as a society can move forward, according to Kee Warner, associate vice chancellor for Inclusion and Academic Engagement.

     “There are many different channels of violence around the world: Black Lives Matter, anti-LGBT and so on. In these workshops, we will be looking at specific actions against Islam and the portrayals of Islam as something dangerous,” said Warner.

     Warner said that programs like the library’s Just Talk series offers a place on campus where people can speak freely about issues and have meaningful conversations.

     “We are finding with these programs that there has been a great deal of interest shown from students, faculty and staff to have these spaces on campus and an opportunity to talk about these issues, learn from other people and sort through their own thoughts and feelings,” Warner said.