This Woman Bravely Challenges People To Rethink Their Opinions Of Muslims

Photo: Matthew Staver/Getty Images.
Sometimes, we show prejudice without even realizing we're doing so. In a TED talk delivered earlier this month, Muslim scholar Dalia Mogahed asked, "What do you see when you look at me?" and encouraged people to rethink their perceptions of Muslims.

Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, hopes to fight common misunderstandings about Muslims and how they are portrayed by American media outlets.

"I'm a mom, a coffee-lover — double espresso, cream on the side — I'm an introvert, I'm a wannabe fitness fanatic, and I'm a practicing spiritual Muslim," Mogahed told the crowd at her talk. She explained that many Americans have never met a Muslim person, so their opinions on the religion may be formed by what they see in the news, which is often negative.

Mogahed went on to explain the horror she felt when she learned of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "Somebody else's actions had turned me from a citizen to a suspect," she said. She went on to explain that after the attacks, she felt afraid for other Americans to know she was Muslim, as her family moved to a new town.

"Those people who attacked our country attacked our country," Mogahed said in her talk. She used her experience as a way to explain that Americans should be united with each other — including being united with American Muslims — against terrorist attacks, rather than singling out American Muslims as being potential threats. "I get it that people are angry at the terrorists. Guess what? So was I," Mogahed said.

In the talk she also discussed stopping the Islamic State group, or ISIS, saying that Americans "would be giving in to their narrative if we cast them as representatives of a faith of 1.6 billion people" — a statement that was met by a round of applause.

"ISIS has as much to do with Islam as the Ku Klux Klan has to do with Christianity," Mogahed added. "Both groups claim to base their ideology on their holy book, but when you look at them, they're not motivated by what they read in their holy book. It's their brutality that makes them read these things into the scripture."

Mogahed is no stranger to debunking misconceptions about Muslims — in 2008, she co-authored the book Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think with Georgetown University Professor John Esposito. She also recently told CNN that anti-Islamic sentiment becomes more common in the United States during presidential election years, so her TED talk comes at an apt time. Check out her powerful speech in the video below.

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