Professor Discusses the Rise of Anti-Islam Sentiment

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Georgetown University’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, & Affirmative Action (IDEAA) hosted John Esposito to speak on “Islamophobia – A Social Disorder That Impacts Our Nation and Students” at the end of September. The event, part of IDEAA’s Fall 2017 Diversity and Inclusion series, aimed to explain Dr. Esposito’s beliefs on Islamophobia as well as his suggestions for possible countermeasures.

According to Pew, about half of Americans (49%) think at least “some” U.S. Muslims are anti-American, greater than the share who say “just a few” or “none” are anti-American, according to a January 2016 survey.

“Prejudice towards and discrimination against Muslims are on the rise. What is behind it and what are the means to address it?” was the central question of Esposito’s discussion.

This event generated significant attention around campus in large part due to the fact that at an event last year entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery,” Jonathan Brown, the director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, defended slavery and rape under Islamic law, arguing that slavery should not be treated as an absolute “moral evil.”

Esposito’s discussion was generally uncontroversial, apart from his criticisms of conservatives as the purveyors of anti-Islam sentiment. He critiqued many in the Republican Party, including President Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz who Esposito believes have only worsened the problem of Islamaphobia. He cited quotes from Republican politicians and policies that Esposito believes has help create Islamophobic sentiment in the US today.

When asked whether Islamophobic tendencies fell along party lines, Esposito put fault in people who adhered to both parties, he felt that this problem leaned more conservative.

“I think it is more significant in the Republican Party, particularly the far right.”

This is far from Dr. Esposito’s first instance of discussing this topic, he has spoken at various Georgetown and non-Georgetown events on his work with Islamophobia. As the Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian, Esposito is well known for his efforts to combat Islamophobia at Georgetown and globally.

In an interview following this event, Esposito shared his thoughts on both the event and the topic of Islamophobia.

“Islamophobia has grown exponentially and negative media coverage of of Islam and Muslims has hit an all time high… Fear of Islam and Muslims, not just militant extremists and terrorism, has become normalized in popular culture in American and in Europe.”

When asked about his “Islamophobia – A Social Disorder That Impacts Our Nation and Students” event. Esposito stated his contentment with the result.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the Turnout…the audience asked very good questions,” said Esposito. He also claims to be satisfied with Georgetown’s responses to what he called, “hot button social issues.”

“The University has stepped up. They are very quick to respond to incidents,” he stated. “[This] generation is coming at a critical intersection of American History.”

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