Fostering Understanding in Our Community: Islamaphobia 2.0: The Evolution of Anti-Muslim Sentiments in the US
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Ten years ago, Dr Abdul-Cader and Prof. Lloyd-Moffett and their friend Rev. Jane Voigts led San Luis Obispo in a six-session community class on the basics of the Islamic faith called A Taste of Islam. Over 500 people attended these sessions, friendships were formed, and knowledge about Islam grew in our community. However, ten years later, Islamaphobia still infects the American soul in new and often disturbing ways. This talk will examine how sentiments have shifted in the United States through both academic analysis and personal experience.
Our Distinguished Speakers
Dr. Rushdi Abdul-Cader
A local physician, who after 20 years of serving in the Emergency Room has shifted to be the medical director of the SLO County Jail. He is the co-founder of the first Muslim free clinic in the United States and Anti-VIRUS (Anti-Violent Ideology Recruitment in the United States.) His interest in policing in America led to him becoming a member of the local SWAT team and a nationally-known trainer for SWAT trauma medicine. A tireless advocate for the value of interreligious dialogue, Dr. Abdul-Cader has spoken countless times throughout the county, advocating for tolerance and understanding of all religions.
Dr. Stephen Lloyd-Moffett
A professor of Comparative Religion at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, an occasional columnist for the Tribune, and advocate for religious dialogue. An internationally-known scholar of Religious Studies, Dr. Lloyd-Moffett has given over 100 local lectures on Islam since his arrival in the area in 2005. He is the past recipient of the College of Liberal Arts teaching award and the Top 20 Under 40 award from the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Ten years ago, Dr Abdul-Cader and Prof. Lloyd-Moffett and their friend Rev. Jane Voigts led San Luis Obispo in a six-session community class on the basics of the Islamic faith called A Taste of Islam. Over 500 people attended these sessions, friendships were formed, and knowledge about Islam grew in our community. However, ten years later, Islamaphobia still infects the American soul in new and often disturbing ways. This talk will examine how sentiments have shifted in the United States through both academic analysis and personal experience.
Dr. Cornel Morton: Good evening. Welcome. My name is Cornel Morton. I serve as president of the Diversity Coalition, San Luis Obispo county. And on behalf of our board of directors, I'm very happy and very pleased to welcome you to tonight's program, tonight's dialogue. This program is part of our series, Fostering Understanding in Our Community. For the last several years, we have been offering this series as a means of creating more conversation, more dialogue around issues of importance, not only in our community, but throughout our state and throughout our nation. And tonight is no exception. We are very pleased to have two outstanding guest speakers with us tonight. They will be introduced shortly and will be taking up the topic and issues surrounding Islamophobia. We have been the coalition that is at work for more than 10 years in the county. Back in March of 2011, a hate crime incident occurred in AG, Arroyo Grande.
A black family was the victim of that hate crime. It was actually a cross burning that occurred in their yard, their front yard, this incident was investigated, was determined to be a hate crime. A number of people came together throughout the community to support the family, and in the best of traditions, in terms of compassion and support and being mindful of how important it is to express that kind of support for a family under siege in that way. These individuals decided to stay together. They decided that it was important for the county to have means for quick response and also for educating the community on DEI issues, diversity equity, inclusivity.
And so if you hit the fast forward button to 2022, here we are now still continuing the work in so many ways, collaborating with local school districts, collaborating with other nonprofit organizations, especially organizations that are focused on social justice and equity in our community. And we're very happy that that work has been recognized and has been seen as a real resource in the community. So thank you for joining us and thank you for your participation. And I know that many of you are underway with work in this community. That makes a real difference. And so the coalition, and underline the word coalition, we do consider with our coalition affiliates, this work to be extremely important right now in our county.
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And so thank you again for being with us, welcome, and we look forward to an inspirational and informative dialogue and conversation. I want to also acknowledge the work that many of the folks in the community are doing more recently, supporting efforts in our schools and supporting efforts across the county that serve, again, to welcome people who are perhaps new to the community and to be certain that everything that we do spells care and concern for those who are vulnerable and those who are underrepresented.
I want to take this opportunity very quickly to introduce Kathy Minck. Kathy is our education chair, and Kathy's going to share a few comments, and also some updates on programs that are upcoming in our offerings through the coalition. So Kathy, I'll turn to you, and you have the floor.
Kathy Minck: Thank you, Cornel. I just want to take a few moments to update everyone on what the education committee has been up to recently. On December eighth and ninth, we brought Ben [Faruda], who is our Japanese American internment survivor, to speak to the U.S. history students at San Louis Coastal, and at Lucia Mar. Here he is speaking to Arroyo Grande High School, and here he is at Morro Bay High School. He did three sessions, presentations each to about a hundred students.
And looking forward on March 29th and 30th, we're going to have our Holocaust survivor speaker again, Rita [Lurie] and her daughter, and they're going to speak about their experience to the eighth graders. Again, both in San Louis Coastal and Lucia Mar school districts. I must add here that this will be the fifth consecutive year that we have brought a Holocaust survivor to our eighth graders. So our first group of eighth graders are now seniors in high school, so that many children have heard this firsthand account story. Following that and adding to it a week later, those same eighth graders on April seventh and eighth will hear the story of a Dutch resistance worker to the Nazi occupation in Holland.
And she and her mother hid a Jewish girl in her home and were nearly killed when the Nazis found out. So that's a very fitting continuation of that Holocaust story. So those same eighth graders will hear that. And she will speak in the evening to our group. That will be April seventh at six o'clock in the evening. And we're going to entitle that, Would You Do the Right Thing? I think that's an important question to ponder. She's also going to do a book signing that evening, so hopefully we'll be able to do that and have it indoors. I'm also negotiating with several other speakers for May and for next year already. We have 11 speakers on our list.
Okay, now onto our evening. I'm very proud to bring to you two local scholars on the subject of Islamophobia, Dr. Rushdi Abdul-Cader is a local physician with 20 years experience in the ER. And he's now the medical director of the SLO County Jail. He's the co founder of the first Muslim free clinic in the United States and also of a group called Anti-VIRUS. That's Anti Violent Ideology Recruitment in the U.S. He's a member of our local SWAT team and a trainer for SWAT trauma medics. He's a nationwide speaker who advocates for tolerance and understanding of all religions.
Joining him is professor Stephen Lloyd-Moffett, who is a professor of comparative religions at Cal-Poly and an occasional columnist for The Tribune. He's an internationally known scholar of religious studies, and has lectured extensively on Islam. He's a past recipient of the College of Liberal Arts Teaching Award and the Top 20 Under 40 Award from The Tribune. So please join me in giving a warm welcome to our two renowned speakers for the evening. Thank you, both of you.
Dr. Stephen Llo...: Well, thanks for having us. I would say it's an honor to be asked to speak about this topic, even if it's sad that 20 years on, we are still having to talk about it.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: See, I thought I was invited to a show like Between Two Ferns. This is two friends on either side of a yucca plant, but I'm joking. But it's great to be here, and I think it's important that we continue to have these conversations like we did 20 years ago.
Dr. Stephen Llo...: Yeah. And Rushdi and I have both been tested, so when we talk, we will take our mask off. And how today's going to work is I am going to give about 30 minutes of an academic presentation on how Islamophobia has evolved over the last 20 years. And then after that presentation, Rushdi will reflect upon his experiences and how those have changed and some potential pathways forward. But we both feel that the richest time will be the question and answer period. So feel free to put it in the chat or the Q and A when that time comes. Sounds good?
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: Stephen, [crosstalk]. I'm going to scoot over here a little bit.
Dr. Stephen Llo...: I will share the screen now with you, and we'll start looking at the history of Islamophobia in America. There we go. Okay. So I'm going to look how Islamophobia has evolved over the last 20 years. And I'm going to begin by giving a sort of quick overview of the trends in Islamophobia. And let's begin by telling the story in brief. Prior to 9/11, there was very little anti-Islamic sentiment in America. Islam was viewed more favorably than Hinduism and Buddhism, viewed about on par with Catholicism. Most American understanding of terrorism was centered on the abortion clinic bombings, left-wing guerilla movements, right-wing antigovernment movements.
Internationally, terrorism was connected with nationalistic strife, such as the troubles in Ireland or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Innovations, so to speak, of terrorism, such as suicide bombings were developed in Sri Lanka by Buddhists. And to be honest, Americans just didn't think much about Islam, positively or negatively. That all changed with 9/11, and this inaugurates a whole new era. Now, of course, we're all familiar with 9/11, but one of the things I like to point out to my students was, you know, when you read the rich letters and writings of his Osama bin Laden and trying to understand it, he was not there just to do bodily harm to America. His goal, which he set out in a 1996 strategic plan at a sort of corporate retreat for Al-Qaeda, was to bankrupt America, to lead America into a series of wars that would eventually bankrupt us as a nation.
And he set 2020 as the date that we would be bankrupt in response. And there are studies that have shown that America has spent about six trillion dollars since that time in response. We're not quite bankrupt yet, but certainly we are teetering from a number of different subjects. But that's really the start of Islamophobia in America. In reaction to 9/11, you see an immediate spike in the months after September, from a very moderate, low level before the event into, you know, nearly 500 events or incidents in those three months afterwards.
Now for many of us who are scholars of religion, and for the Muslims who live in our country, our neighbors and friends, this was a scary spike because it seemed to inaugurate a new era in which Muslims would be targeted. However, it didn't really materialize right away, in that sense. And it's largely due to the credit of the Bush administration. Now there's plenty of things to criticize the Bush administration for, but George Bush's response, very early on, was to meet with American Muslims, stand by their side, and let the world know that the challenges of America is not with Islam, but with the terrorists who misuse Islam. And so he was very clear in speech after speech, that Islam itself is not to be targeted. And those who do target Muslims generally are missing the spirit of America.
And so, as you can see from the bottom left here, is attitudes towards Islam were actually relatively high in October of 2001. And if you compare March, 2001 to November, 2001, the favorability of Islam in America actually went up, and the Bush administration deserves a lot of credit for that, because for both Republicans and Democrats and Independents, there was a general consensus that the issue was with the terrorist, not with the religion. Over the next half a decade, many of us in religious studies spent a lot of time teaching about Islam. It suddenly went from a position that was the hardest to get a job in America to teach, to the easiest to get a job, because everybody wanted to know Islam.
And we sort of settled into a low level of Islamophobia, that seemed to be slowly dissipating. There seemed to be a sense that life might emerge out of this horrific moment with more religious understanding. However, we get to episode two, and this was around 2010, 2011 in the wake of the Obama victory. And the shift happened almost entirely within Republican circles with two issues that arose. The first was the request of some Islamic leaders in New York to rebuild an Islamic center somewhat near Ground Zero. It was supposed to be called the Cordoba House, which is named after the period in Spain when Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony, and it was to be dedicated to inter-religious understanding and peace.
However, conservative politicians and their media apparatus saw an opportunity to create a wedge issue that could animate their voters. They proclaimed it the ground zero mosque, or the victory mosque for extremist Muslims. Protests erupted, letters to the editor campaigns arose, and incidents of bigotry and discrimination rose. At the same time, the attention of the Islamic world, and particularly the regime of the Taliban, led to the creation of another wedge issue to stoke Republican outrage. This time pundits began to tout the rise of Sharia law by American Muslims as a vital threat to the American way of life.
Now, no one actually touting it knew much about it. And there were precisely zero instances of Muslims uniting to try to override the American legal system, but it sounded scary, it evoked the Taliban, and it was coming to your front door unless you voted in the right way. Well, and this is the origin of 10 years ago when Rushdi, myself, and our beloved friend, pastor Jane Voigts of the Methodist church were sitting around having coffee. And we were bemoaning some of the language that was in the letters to the editor, and Rushdi turned to me and said, "You know what? If people are ignorant about Islam, aren't you the religion professor in town? Shouldn't we do something about this?"
So we announced a class, the Taste of Islam. And I think it was the very first class in America, sponsored by churches and synagogues about Islam, and we didn't know if anybody would show up. But the very first day, we had it in the library, and even before it started, the entire plaza was full of people. We eventually moved to a movie theater and had five weeks of some 400 or 500 people learning about Islam.
That very first talk, I talked about how favorability of Islam had fallen over the last decade, and a lot of that had to do with ignorance about Islam by Americans, that 43% of Americans actually admitted to strangers that they were prejudiced against Muslims, that 81%, according to a recent poll, had an unfavorable view, and that 57% of Americans couldn't name a single good thing about Islam, even like they teach you to love your mother or anything. And so we had this moment where our community came together to learn about Islam.
As the next years wore on, we saw the incidence of anti-Muslim bias decline, until 2015. And in 2015, we start seeing it rise considerably, almost towards the levels of right after 9/11. And that was due, in part, because of the media attention to ISIS. ISIS had a very public campaign that was full of brutality and images to evoke outrage, but also the rise of Trump who saw Islam as an issue to galvanize his base. We also saw more anti-Muslim groups arise, a huge lift up, and they were using their resources to spread anti-Islam rhetoric on bus sides and billboards around America.
The Lifelong Learners of the Central Coast, another one of our great organizations, organized a series of classes in response to this uptick, at the Methodist Church. And we had 300 or 400 people there. And I really stressed in that of talks how Muslims were really feeling discriminated, more than any other group at the time, and it's driven by fear. 96% of adults in 2015 in America saw Islamic terrorism as a pressing, pressing issue. And just like, that Islamophobia began to decline in 2018, declined in 2019, and declined in 2021.
Now, why did it decline? Well, in some sense, fear of COVID took over everything, and this will led to an escaping and targeting Asians in America, as we've seen in previous wonderful episodes of this very series. So it wasn't that suddenly Americans became enlightened and embracing their neighbor all the time, but it got shifted over to anti-Asian rhetoric. Also, the anxiety around Black Lives Matter led to a new boogieman for the right, and that was the critical race theory, and critical race theory took up most of the oxygen in the room and issues of Islam seem to decline.
So now we have 20 years of data, of looking at Islamophobia in America. And what have scholars learned from it? Well, one thing that I hear in so many of my talks in the Q and A is that, you know, this is not Islamophobia. That suggests an irrational fear. This is a rational fear. Islam should be targeted because it is more dangerous. And this comes both from the left in characters like Sam Harris, the right, like Glenn Beck, and many everyday conclusions. And, you know, early on, it might be hard to prove that this is not the direction. But what we can show now is that it is truly a phobia because it is a irrational fear.
Since 9/11, Islamic terrorism have claimed 108 lives, from 9/11 to 2020. Now any single life loss is a tragedy, but we need to put at that in perspective. At the same time, there have been 305,000 murders in America. So only about 0.03%, not even 0.1%, not even 1% of murders in the U.S. have been at the hands of Islamic terrorists. From 2018 to 2020, about 0.0006% of murders in the U.S. were committed by Muslims, or to flip that, 99.99994% of murder in the U.S. was not done by Islamic terrorists.
There are 48 deaths from 2018 to 2020. The vast majority of them were by white supremacists. Even if we want to go back from 1970-2012, there are 2,400 terrorist attacks in the U.S., 60 were carried out by Muslims, which is less than Jewish extremists, Christian extremists, or Latino extremists. The ADL has done a great study of 2008 to 2017 and shows that the vast majority of violence in America has been caused by right wing extremism. I like to tell my students that, you know, if you want to visualize, you have a higher probability of dying from a brain-eating parasite than an Islamic terrorist. You have a higher probability of dying from autoerotic asphyxiation than a Islamic terrorist. You have more people dying from sofas falling from the sky than Islamic terrorists. More people die of being struck by lightning or pillow asphyxiation, or being shot by toddlers, than Islamic terrorists.
Now they say, "Wow, that might be just because we have become so good at capturing Islamic terrorists before they do anything." Well, the numbers on the left are all the number of Muslims in America indicted for terrorist plots over the last 12 years, and no, those aren't in thousands. Those are actual numbers. So 2021, there were seven Muslims in all of America. So to put that in perspective, that was 0.00023% of American Muslims were indicted for terrorism in 2021. And yet, when you ask people, fill in the blank here, Islamic blank, people say, "Art?" Not so often. People say, "Chocolate?" Maybe you've had to get chocolate. "Lover?" Maybe depends upon your night, but the vast majority can only think of terrorists to go with it, despite such a small threat.
I have another suggestion. I think we should all replace the Islamic terrorist notion in your head with Islamic doctor, like my friend Rushdi over here. See [inaudible] that picture, there. See? And in fact, when polled, American Muslims are the least likely religious group to think that targeting civilians, which is the definition of terrorism, is acceptable at any time, among all religious groups, American Muslims are the least likely to hold that.
And so it is not Islamic realism. It is Islamophobia. It is a irrational fear. Now, if you can remember a decade ago, the big fear was Sharia law.
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Dr. Stephen Llo...: If you can remember a decade ago, the big fear was Sharia law. Newt Gingrich assured us that Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States. Steve Bannon said Sharia courts are taking out up all over Texas and the mainstream media is hiding it. And as a result of this campaign, 75% of Americans had concern about Sharia influencing American law.
This led to some 23 states passing anti-foreign law, which were aimed at being anti-Sharia law threats. But looking back, we can identify exactly zero attempts by American Muslims to enact Sharia law at any level. So damn, this was presented as a threat and it really wasn't. And so, it's not a rational fear, it is a phobia.
We have also learned though, what causes the ebbs and flows. The basic analysis shows that the perennial cause is fear plus ignorance, leads to bigotry and discrimination. Now, fear, especially of the unknown, is always something that is used to justify our most heinous actions. I mean, when we don't really understand what's out there, that's when we are most scared and we feel justified in doing so.
And this formula, fear plus ignorance, really ends up creating the root of all religious bigotry over time. So, this is the same formula that has driven antisemitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Chinese rhetoric over the years. And in fact, this desire to blame somebody and whoever that somebody is, is a longstanding tradition in America. When you look at what is most linked to being Islamophobic, it is being anti Jew, anti LGBTQ, anti other marginal groups.
So this basic idea of fear and ignorance leads to blaming somebody, has played out. But we also have learned and studying the ebbs and the flows of Islamophobia, that indeed, tragic events do play some role. When there is an unfortunate event with involving an Islamic terrorists, this plays a role. But also election cycles play an important role, and just anxiety generally, economics, social [inaudible].
Now, what's interesting here, is that when you look at something like a tragic event, statistically, a single event like that does not create a meaningful change in the threat profile for me as an individual. So, take something like the pulse nightclub event of 2016. The probability of me dying from Islamic terrorists after that event was, it was statistically insignificant more than before that event, right? The rise of the Taliban in an Afghanistan placed almost no role in the threat profile of San Luis Obispo.
So, why do these events end up triggering Islamophobia? Well, in large part, it's because for many Americans, their window into Islam is through the media. Almost 87% of Americans have never been to a mosque, 60% of Americans say they've never met a single Muslim. So, for the majority of America, the media is where they learn about Islam. And I'm afraid that's not usually a good thing.
The media shapes the public opinion that leads to Islamophobia. We have to remember that the media doesn't primarily exist to relay information. They are in the advertising distribution business, not the education business. Their livelihood is dependent upon attracting eyes to their content, and retaining our eyes through as many commercials as possible. And the media has become particularly savvy at keeping our attention.
That is why there's always breaking news, which is the desire to convey the audience that if you are thinking of turning off your TV for a moment, you shouldn't because this is essential. The issue though is, breaking news is everywhere. And the reality, the longstanding statement that if it bleeds it leads, is there because humans respond more to fear than to inspiration.
One case of a suicide bomber, even in a far away country where most Americans don't even know where it is, will hold the audience's attention far more than a story on a billion Muslims praying for peace in a day. And so, our media gravitates towards stories that induce fear. And just one visual symbol of this, is this one guy. He's a Pakistani who has been in a number of different protests, but because his face so encapsulates the fear that Americans respond to, he gets put in every single story on Islam in the world.
And this one guy, I think has done more to tarnish the image of Islam than any other, because it just gets repeated because it so fits the narrative that the media wants to sell so that you stick to their show. They even called them the Islamic rage boy in the media.
But what scholarship has shown is that what the media depicts is not correlative to reality. This is a really interesting study where the two right bars are the media coverage in the New York Times and The Guardian. And what you see is over half of media coverage is about homicide and terrorism. Let's make it... Next one, there. And this does push some Google searches. But when you look in actual death in America, those are both not even on the list.
And so, the media wants to focus not on what actually causes death, because those aren't always good stories, but rather on what produces fear. And it's particularly in a case when it's a Muslim, media overreport Muslim attacks compared to non-Muslim one story or one study showed five times more than when a attacker is not Muslim. Another one said 357% more coverage controlling for fatalities and rest, stuff like that.
But the reality is, the media knows more people pay attention to it when they can play up the fear of Islam. On the left is a study of two events that happened pretty close to one another, Dylann Roof massacre and the Omar Mateen, which is the pulse one. And as you'll see, that the words used were very different for the Muslim articles. One study said 80% of the New York Times Tenor on Islam was negative, which is more negative than North Korea.
Another study showed that New York Times portrayed Islam more negatively than cancer and cocaine. So, there is a media element to it. And this is particularly so now because we used to all have a very few opportunities to get our media. Our three major television stations or local news. Now though, everything's been scrambled. And so, the competition for eyes are even more intense, and this just leads to more sensationalism.
So, part of it is the media playing up events and leading to this irrational fear. Another part is politics. And this is as old as America gets. Some of you might know that Thomas Jefferson had a Quran and he knew the Quran. He was actually fond in debating whether a Muslim could be a present as a test case for freedom in America. Well, that came back to haunt him in the election of 1800.
What John Adams political team began to spread rumors that Jefferson had converted to Islam, and thus he should not be president of the United States. But the fear is really powerful. I remember during the Trump campaign, I was listening to MPR of my partner Amy, and MPR did a story on Iowa farmers support for Trump.
And the Iowa farmer said, "Well, let me tell you why I support Trump. Because last night, in the middle of the night, I heard a noise outside my farm. And I realized the Muslims had come for me. And so, I got my gun and I went out, and in this time, it turned out just to be the neighbor's cat, but Trump is right they coming for me. And I yelled into the air saying, "Oh my God, nobody goes to Iowa, let alone some rural farm."
And Amy, as wise as she always is says, "Steve, that is real deep fear. When you can convince a rural Iowa farmer that Muslims are coming for you, that's deep fear." And fear was a central element of the Trump campaign. Throughout the Trump campaign, fear of Islam was seen as a wedge issue that could motivate voters. And it really worked.
When you look at polls, especially among Republicans, there was tremendous fear around Islam around the election that seemed to dissipate afterwards, despite conditions changing very little. And so, every time you have an election, there'll be some folks that want to use Islam as a wedge issue now. Furthermore, there is an entire industry that supports this politics of fear. The conservative media has a pipeline for anti-Islam books that then will appear on the New York Times bestseller list through their support.
So, I think what we've learned as scholars is yes, the media plays a role in hyping the unfortunate events that happen around the world in order to entertain more audiences, and politics tends to push it. What it means is that with both these things, Islamophobia has more to do with conditions within America than what Muslims do or conditions outside of America.
So where do we stand? Well, I know a lot of these talks can be depressing. So, let's start off with a good news. 2020 was a breakthrough year in Muslim political influence. 84% of American Muslims voted, and about 80% of those voted for Biden. There was also nine state legislated assembly people, who were Muslim that were voted in across American, including the first transgender hijab-wearing Muslim woman, who was elected in Oklahoma of all places.
Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib got reelected. We have our first FTC commissioner who's a Muslim. The first district court judge a Muslim. So in many ways, 2020 was a year of transformation for Muslim influence in politics. Also in sports, and arts and culture. The first Muslim head football coach, the first academy award nominee for best actor, Golden Globe nominees, the first hijab Barbie for our Olympian fencer, Youssef [inaudible] Islam, and Cat Stevens got introduced to the Hall Of Fame.
So, Muslims have had in many ways, lots to celebrate in the last couple of years. One final thing, when Chapman University does the top 10 fears of the US, ever since they started Islam has been near the top. For example, in 2016, a terrorist attack on the nation was second. But by 2021, it had fallen off of the top 10, not even in the top 15. So, there is signs of hope here. But what has happened is, Muslims still report the highest level of discrimination. These are numbers from 2019 and 2020.
Among religious groups, Muslims face the most religious discrimination, Jews being second. Among other marginalized groups, today, Muslims perceive more discrimination against themselves than gays and lesbians, blacks, and Hispanics. And so, discrimination is still vibrant here. Muslims face that discrimination mostly in interactions with strangers and in work environments.
You see here, a poll from 2020 from ISPU of interacting with strangers, likely to face discrimination. Children Muslims, children are twice as likely as general public to say that they're bullied for their faith. And so, the experience is being passed on to the younger generations.
What we've seen more than anything though, is that Islamophobia has been subsumed by the political polarization and the ranker between the two parties. Very interestingly, if you look at this poll to your right, back in March of 2002, the Republicans and Democrats are actually quite close on the question of whether Islam is more likely to encourage violence among believers.
What we've seen in the last 20 years is, that spread become greater and greater and greater. And so now, if you tell me your political party, statistically speaking, I can let you know your likelihood to think Islam encourages more violence. And just in the last two years, there's been a huge shift of, should Muslims receive extra airport screenings.
So this is Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, the blue line is 2016, the orange line is 2018. What you notice is among Republicans, very little has shifted, but look at Independents and look at Democrats. A huge shift towards more reasonable looks at Muslims. Same are Muslims more prone to violence. Again, just in two years, really significant shifts in perception.
And, as with so much of America, the ranker between the two parties is subsuming Islamophobia, and the elements that go with it. So, Republicans tend to be more white evangelical when ISPU did a study on Islamophobia, they did a ranking system, and white evangelicals indeed were far more likely to be Islamophobic than Jews, non-affiliated Catholics and mainline Protestants.
Likewise, in education, you're far more like to be Islamophobic if you have a high school education or less, and far less to be Islamophobic if you have a postgraduate degree. And finally, on media source, you're far more likely to be Islamophobic if you watch Fox than anything else on it. And so, in many ways, this cluster of a characteristics that have fallen into a Republican camp versus Democrat camp, the Democrat camp has shifted remarkably towards religious tolerance. And Republican camp has maintained an Islamophobia or has seen it grown.
There are signs of hope though. This was a month by month study done over the last 18 months around the election. And you'll see that Democrats' favorability remained about constant, so in Independents. But you do see a slight increase in Republican view of Muslims, so that is hopeful. And the final thing I want to point out is that, regardless of your political party, one of the most strong indicators of whether you harbor Islamophobic tendencies is whether you know a Muslim.
And so, even Republicans who might tend towards this given their party designation, when you know a Muslim, the favorability of Islam goes up. And so, that's a sign of hope because as more interactions occur, we will tend to overcome the pressures of the media and the political juggernauts along the way. A final thought. When we look at getting involved, I like to remember that the unfavorability of Islam in prior 9/11 was around 24%.
Now, I don't know, maybe it's around 55%, somewhere like that. When you look at groups today with similar unfavorability to Muslims in 2001, in other words, groups that are vulnerable, maybe one instant away from their own series of discrimination, bigotry. Jews, and Mormons, and Catholics tend to have around the same favorability of Islam before. And Buddhist and Hindus actually have much higher unfavorability ratings than Muslims did.
And so, we have to remember that all the religions are in this together. We need to stand up for fairness and accuracy. One of the things I always tell my students is, "You don't need to defend Islam, but you should defend accuracy and fairness in all religions. Because we all have a vested interest in talking about religions in a fair, respectful, and accurate way."
Standing up for actually fairness and respect for all religions should be a duty of us all. And so, I want to close with the quote by a famous World War II activist, who said, "First they came for the Jews, but I did nothing because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the socialist, I did nothing because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the Catholics, but I did nothing because I'm not a Catholic. Finally, they came for me, but there was no one left to save me."
And so, as we go forward, I want to remember that we have all sorts of data showing how Islamophobia has come and go, has evolved, and the waves in which it goes. But in every instance, the dynamic is the same, whether it's Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Chinese, or whoever. This idea that fear and ignorance lead to bigotry and discrimination is something that we all need to address.
And with that, I will pass it over to Rushdi, and he will share his thoughts.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: Everyone, I'm still unused to speaking via Zoom about anything other than patient care nowadays, actually. But I'd like to start, if I can, with a philosophy of not just Islamophobia, but the notion of religious bigotry, and just bigotry towards others in general. And there's a saying of an Ethiopian philosopher, philanthropist as well, who said, "The beginning of wisdom is to do away with fear."
The beginning of wisdom is to do away with fear. And I believe that I have been blessed with so many people in my life, who've been just phenomenal examples of nobility, of standing up for a smaller guy when they didn't have to. And one of those people, interestingly, since we're on the topic of Islamophobia, one of the first people that had such a deep influence on me meeting him, was a local San Luis Obispan, a Jewish man in his 80s, by the name of Paul Wolff.
And Paul's wife, Mary just passed away recently, God rest her soul. But these two people are giants, upon which the rest of us have had the fortune of seeing and experiencing in our lives. So when I first met Paul Wolff, it was at Cal Poly, where a group at school had brought an expert on Islam. And this expert was... And I don't give a name only because I think it's really... it doesn't help to advertise for Islamophobes, and no more than it does to advertise for anti-Semites or other bigots.
So he was giving his talk, and I was in the audience, and he gives this very convincing talk about how Muslims are going to take over everything. And he gives us very... He shows this image that shows these arrows of Muslims taking over Europe and then going into other places and what have you. And the question and answer period began. And he started picking up people in the audience. And Paul put his hand up and he stood up.
And Paul identified himself. He says, "My name's Paul Wolff, and I'm a Holocaust survivor. And you know, they used to have images just like that, about us." And you could have heard a pin drop in the room. And Paul, if you're out there, thank you. There's a saying from the Gospel of Thomas, one of my favorite sayings, actually, it's a part of my philosophy in working with our regional SWAT team and with other tactical units, is the protection of my of brothers and sisters.
There's a saying from the Gospel of Thomas, "Love your brother like your own soul, and guard him like the pupil of your eye." And guard him like the pupil of your eye. And what's very interesting is, because the mentioning of the eye, the cornea. The cornea is one of the most sensitive tissues in the body. It's actually regenerates very quickly when damaged.
And if you touch it, there's actually a reflex. It's called a corneal reflex. If I touch my cornea, my eye will close reflexively. The protection of one's self or one's own community is instinctual. It's almost reflexive. And it doesn't take much if somebody comes, and I'm a Sri Lankan and somebody comes and says something negative about Sri Lanka, my immediate response maybe to defend that particular group.
But to another thing entirely, when I stand up for another group, that's disenfranchised, and I'll tell you, it doesn't... it matters. It really does matter. And this is what I tell my kids. It's not about, about what you say, it's about what you do, and about what example you are. Because the fact is, at the end of the day, we are all an example of something.
I've just finished telling my kids about this. We're all an example of something. We're either an example of something good or we're example of something else. And it's just very important, I think, as human beings in this time. Especially in a time that really... It's interesting, I have friends, for example, in both parties. I have friends that are Republicans, I have friends that are Democrats. But I have heard people that will say there is nothing good about a Republican, or there is nothing good about Democrat.
And this type of philosophy is just driven by fear. And it's really... Again, it's unwise. I think this nation, our strength comes from our immunity. And our strength comes from our ability to protect the small guy. And that has been a philosophy that I've lived by.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: Has been... That I've lived by for a lifetime to protect the vulnerable, that our family lives by. And I think if we're going to start looking, for example, at a community, we have in Islamic tradition, something called, [foreign language].
[Foreign language] means to think well of others. And I think you'll have somebody that'll throw you an online post and it'll have something about this political thing going on in this particular group, and how we should really be worried about them and what have you.
Fill in the blank. That could be Muslim, Jew, Mormon, what have you. And instead of being somebody who just absorbs that, it's something to consider to say, "Why don't we speak up? Why don't we say something?"
And sometimes, what's really horrific is when there's silence. When somebody says something that's anti-Semitic, or something that's bigoted towards any particular group, and there's silence in the room. And nobody says anything.
I remember in 2010, when I was at a police conference, which was a great conference, I learned a lot. And I went to a talk on high threat extrication. It was given by a fellow who is a firefighter, not law enforcement.
But he was giving this talk on high threat extrication. He gave it on the Beslan massacre, which was actually riveting. It was a very interesting talk, and very sad to watch.
But he ends his talk with, "This is what Islam, this is what..." Sorry, "This is what the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran teach Muslims to do." And he really couldn't be further off.
What does the Quran say about criminality? There's a verse in Quran that says, "Do not be used as an advocate for those who betray their trust, for God does not love those given to duplicity and criminality."
So later that same day, there was another talk, and that talk was given by a nation-renowned Islamophobe. And in his talk, what he did was, he actually used a lot of facts.
And a lot of those facts were facts about what I call [inaudible]. People that are misanthropic who happened to belong to the Islamic community. And so, he used factual material.
But then, where does he take it? He takes it in the direction of... During the question and answer, somebody tries to salvage a little bit, and says, "There are some Muslims in the United States that are good. I mean, how many moderate Muslims are there in the United States?"
And this fellow says to a room filled with 350 cops from across the nation, says, "You can count the moderate Muslims in America on two hands."
Now, what that means is, that means when my wife gets pulled over in some town where they don't know me or they don't know her, so my wife happens to be the child abuse examiner for the county, they're going to look at her, "Well, is she one of the 10 moderate Muslims in America?"
The fact is, Islamophobia doesn't just affect people on a big scale. It affects women and children the most. All of my children have had experiences of bigotry.
Are women regularly the victims of verbal or other mistreatment based on just what they're wearing? And I had a... Actually, there's an African student that's staying with us, and she was having a difficult time.
Because quite frankly, I think each of us, each tradition has its own way. I mean, each tradition has it own approach. Our tradition in the Islamic tradition, is particular. To some people, it's literally peculiar.
We don't drink alcohol. We're not supposed to be womanizing or doing drugs, or gambling, or other things like this. And to other people, I think these are popular things. This is what everybody does. This is peculiar. You guys are weird.
And so, when she was in the dorm, what she experienced was that the young people were using drugs, and they were drinking and what have you. And it just didn't suit her. And so, she came to stay with us and it was interesting.
She shared with me the other day, she said, "Uncle," and it's interesting, in Islamic tradition, we use honorifics. Honorifics means that we speak about people with an honorific title. And so, instead of calling me Rushdi, she called me uncle, as a term of endearment.
And she said, "Uncle, I'm having a hard time at school. I get the sense that people don't like me. They don't like me and I don't know. Is it because I'm black? Or is it because I'm Muslim? Or is it both?"
And I didn't answer her with a confirmation, because I do think that in San Luis Obispo, we have a great town, and we have people that, if they knew somebody was suffering, they would reach out.
Case in point is, some of our colleagues who are supporting repatriation of Afghans, who are coming out of this terrible situation with the Taliban. And the message that I try to send is the message that quite frankly, you find it in the Islamic tradition.
But it goes back to ancient Daoism, which is, respond to animosity with virtue. And that's what I would tell if there are any Muslims in this call today that are listening, is to follow that advice.
People who treat you badly, this was a way of the Prophet Muhammad, and people treated him badly. He returned to them kindness and treated them well. And I think that is something for us to live by.
When it comes to Islamophobia and how it has evolved over the last 20 years. The fact is, it will continue to be a problem, and it'll continue to be an issue, just every other form of bigotry will, until people start to stand up and speak up.
I was in the emergency department, this is probably a few years ago. And one of the nurses, I won't mention a name, but one of the nurses, I don't even remember who it was to be honest.
One of the nurses started... We were sitting on one end of the desk, which was close to another room, room number seven. And she started saying... She started talking about Mormons. She says, "These Mormons," she started going on and on and on about Mormons.
And now I could have said quiet and continued my charting. But I didn't, I said, "You know, I don't think that's fair at all." I have to say it. I mean, the Mormons that I've known in my life, have been the kindest, the best etiquette. They have been merciful and compassionate, beautiful people.
I wish I had the [foreign language] or the protocol as we see in the Islamic tradition. I wish I had that type of [foreign language]. I wish I was that patient. I wish I was that loving and caring.
And what's interesting is, when... It's like when your room is filled with gas, you open the window, instead of, there being an explosion, it just goes away. It floats away. And that's what happened, it just kind of floated away.
And perhaps, if they couldn't meet a Mormon, perhaps if they knew a person who loved Mormons, maybe that would change things. And interesting thing that happened after that, I'll probably just close it with this, is that, I walked in to room seven then to see a patient.
When I walked in, there was a woman sitting on the side of the bed and she was weeping, and she was crying. And I said, "Is there something wrong? Are you in pain? What's going on? How can I help you? I'm a physician."
She says, "No, I'm a Mormon. Thank you for sticking up for us." And again, a true measure of nobility is, if we are willing to stick up for somebody else who's not like us.
If we are willing to stand in front of somebody else who means to do harm. And again, excuse me, for me, that's part of why I entered the field of law enforcement as a tactical physician.
And part of, also, why I took a strong stand with Anti VIRUS, which is Anti Violent Ideology Recruitment in the United States, because I feel that at the end of the day, when you talk about the fear, the fear, there's a nidus.
The reason people fear is because there is a problem. And that problem then gets blown out of proportion and applied.
As I've told people before, it is misplaced indignance, meaning that it's misplaced... People are upset and they misplace it and blame innocent people.
And so, what I find very important is to... As the Quran says, stand up for justice, even as against yourselves, whether it be against your parents or your own kin for very God can best protect both.
With that, thank you. And I think I'm going to put my mask back on and pull Steven back over here. And we're going to chat a little bit and answer some questions, maybe. Thank you. Two guys on either side of it. Yeah. Yeah.
Kathy Minck: I was going to make the between two friends joke, but... Thank you so much to both of you. Dr. Moffett, you're always so fascinating to listen to.
I don't know if we can join your classes, or if we have to be students. But we could listen to you talk for forever. You always put it in such a simple and understandable terms.
And Dr. Cader, this is personally my first time meeting you. But thank you so much. You seemed like a fascinating person, and I have a feeling you have many stories that you could also talk to us for hours about. So, pleasure having you here.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: Thank you.
Kathy Minck: Everyone attending, thank you as well. If you can put any questions you have into the Q&A tab, not the chat tab, but the Q&A tab at the bottom of your screen, and we'll go through some of your questions. So, we'll start off with some basics. Someone's just wondering what is Sharia law?
Dr. Stephen Llo...: Yeah, maybe I'll take the academic part of it. So, Sharia just originally meant the way to the watering hole. It was the way of life. It was the way of falling God's will into your life.
And for most Muslims, that's merely putting God's will into your day-to-day life. And so, Sharia for yourself would be following God's, or attempting to follow God's will in your life. Your family would have a Sharia connected with it.
But also in some instances, a society will choose to try to guide its societal rules based on a Islamic understanding by choice. And sometimes that has gone really well, and sometimes now, it has not gone well.
But the times where it has not gone well, has more to do with the heart of the people interpreting what God's will is, than Sharia itself.
In other words, Sharia is simply the attempt to integrate God's will into your life. And if I can have a good anecdote there that goes with Rushdi's call out to our friends in the Latter-day Saints tradition.
We did a Meet Your Muslim Neighbor about, I want to say 2018, and we were going to do it at the mosque. And we got such a response, 600 people signed up. And if you've been to the mosque, it can fit about 60.
So, we were looking for new places to do it, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened their door to us. And I think we ended up with about 600 people at the Mormon church here in town. And they were so open and friendly to all of us.
And someone asked this question and I said, "Bishop," as they call the leaders of the LDS church, I said, "Bishop, if you'll forgive me, I think you guys are some of the best Sharia followers that I know. You think about God's will in every part of your life."
And that struggle, that Jihad to follow God's will, should be emulated rather than tarnished by how people misuse Sharia. So, Sharia in itself is the desire to integrate God's will into your life.
And it can be for an individual, for a family, for community, for a nation. And where it gets a bad name is when malignant people have employed it destructively at the nation level.
Kathy Minck: Heather... Yeah, did you have something else to add?
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: Yeah. To continue on that real quick, is that, like in the Jewish tradition, there's the Halacha, the religious law. In Islamic tradition, there is something called, as you mentioned, Sharia.
And I think that Sharia is great when it comes to personal guidance. I tend to have a problem with it when it starts being as part of the governance.
I think that it can sometimes... Any religious law that takes control of governance, whether it's Islamic law, Christian law, Jewish law, whatever, I think it could lead to problems, especially in a pluralistic society where not everybody is of that group.
I believe that when you start judging people by religious law from a political standpoint, I think it tends to mistreat minorities. And I feel that that can be problematic.
But as far as personal law, in my house, we have our own Sharia. In fact... So, for example, we don't bring alcohol in our home. We don't bring pork into our home. We pray five times a day in our home.
I'll oversleep on occasion for my morning prayer. So, we have the rules that we live by in our tradition, and we try to practice those things in our homes.
And I would say that I was always competing with my Christian neighbor next door, Scott, who has now moved down town. And I have to say, he would always win, because he was more charitable than I was. He was following his Christian law in his home. So, his own Sharia.
Kathy Minck: Right. It's too bad we don't have enough time. But last time, Dr. Moffett spoke to us a few years ago before the pandemic, it was like Islam 101. So, it'd be nice to hear some of that again, but this is a follow-up discussion to the basic discussion.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: In terms of-
Kathy Minck: Heather asked-
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: Go ahead.
Kathy Minck: I was going to move on to another question. Heather asked, is there any conflation with the Nation of Islam?
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: So, the Nation of Islam was a group that came out of racism towards African Americans, where you had during the 1960s development of this group, that had a very racial slant.
But it was again, a reaction to racism that was already existing in United States at that time, segregation, issues of racism. And for that took a particular slant where they are today. Steve you can talk about it.
Dr. Stephen Llo...: Yeah. Yeah. So, what's happened is Nation of Islam is splintered into at least three major groups. There's a Farrakhan group, there's a [Warith] group. And the vast majority of them have integrated into more standard versions of Islam.
And then you still have a few tied to that original, more racial-based version of Islam. So, it's hard because it actually... There isn't just one thing, even though the Farrakhan group wants to claim it.
But the vast majority of people who discovered Islam, African Americans, which make up about 20%, 22% of American Muslims are African American.
A lot of them came to Islam through the Nation of Islam. And then as they evolved, integrated themselves into the wider Islamic community.
And many of those, like Malcolm X started off on the fringe side of it, has his tremendous experience at Mecca and comes back renounces that fringe part, wants to integrate into everyday of Muslim life.
Unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to do that, but hit that trajectory as the story of the vast majority of Nation of Islam.
Kathy Minck: For Dr. Cader, how do we create... And actually, a lot of people are having the question is, what can we do? What actions... The specific question is, how do we create more opportunities in this community for people from different racial, ethnic, and religious groups to know each other, not abstractly know each other, but as individuals?
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: Well, I would say there's a number of things. So, for example, [inaudible] Rogers, who's on this call and has actually mentioned the welcoming of Afghan refugees too slow.
Here you have people who are strangers to our place, and who are less fortunate, and who are coming out of a terrible situation, and fleeing an extreme group of leadership. And so, giving them some hospitality and giving them some help, I think would be one such way.
The other thing is, is to recognize that, for example, you talk about... Steven mentioned all these other things, that brought on the reactions, that brought on Islamophobia. The fact is, in our community, when you look at the Muslims in our community, people like Dr. Nooristani.
Dr. Nooristani is the founder of the only free clinic here in San Luis Obispo. And he is a Muslim. And so, recognizing and being able to maybe introduce some of those people into your congregations to come and tell your story.
Dr. Nooristani has a very interesting story about how he ended up being a physician. He's reaching out to people. And I think that's what makes all the difference in the world.
I think, a lot of the time until you've met somebody and you've embraced that person and... For example, some of my closest friends are people that I went through some very, very dramatic experiences with overseas, including Dr. [Larry Stock], who is a Jewish ER physician. And he had a philosophy that, "I'm going to change people's views about my community just by being there."
I mean, the fact is, this young lady, [Isha], who I was talking to you about, one of the things she told me, she said, "Oh, I went to this interfaith thing, and it was so good to meet all the people." She says, "In my country, I've never met a Jew."
I mean, for us, it's like this, these are our colleagues, these are our friends, these are our extended families, these are our mishpachah. The people that we are responsible for.
But to her, she had never met. And one of the things... Being in contact with our family is encouraging that. Encouraging those interactions, encouraging those relationships, building those relationships. And... yeah.
Dr. Stephen Llo...: Actually, maybe I'll add to that, because I was teaching Christianity yesterday and Jesus message. And one of my favorite encapsulation of Jesus' ethics is something that scholars call, open table theology.
And open table theology is that Jesus welcomed everybody at the table, no matter what your background was, no matter what your social rank was.
And the example I've used for the last decade of that is, my friend Rushdi and Nisha's house. Because you go over to their house for a meal, and there will be the most random people there, and of all walks of life, of all faith, and you're like, "How did you get here?" And it's the checker at Trader Joe's or somebody that he run.
We're in the pandemic now, like keep safe, keep home, but when we get out of this, invite random people over. Because inevitably, if you invite 50 people over, somebody's going to be Muslim, somebody's going to be some other faith that might be new to you.
And that example of just sharing food and sharing stories, is one of the most indelible marks you leave on people. I teach Islam to the students at Cal Poly, and they get 40 hours of me lecturing to them on the history of Islam.
But I have to say, having taught it for years and communicated with a lot of alumni, at the end of that class, we always go over to Rushdi and Nisha's house for dinner, and they make dinner for the whole class and we have a discussion.
Years later, they have forgotten everything I've told them about Islam, but they can tell me what the meal was at the Abdul-Cader's house.
Because it's those personal encounters that really shape people. And you can't force them, I mean, it's great to create some formal dialogues and stuff.
But it's sitting around with food, with interesting people, and having conversations that I think are so indelible. And those are those mini relationships that really shift whole communities.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: [Joanne] had mentioned something here about what we can do, as people that belong to Muslim community. Again, what I would reiterate is what I started with, is that we have a responsibility for one another.
That we love our brother as our own soul, and we protect them like the pupil of our eye. And so, I think having that approach to people, even people that are strangers. I take care of inmates now.
As an emergency doctor, I transitioned now to mostly tactical medicine. I'm hoping to be able to go back to part-time in the ER, a little bit at least. But right now, it's crazy with Omicron.
And I have to tell you, what I try to approach my inmate patients with, is that somebody actually cares about them. That they're not alone. That no matter what crime they've committed, no matter what they've done, that somebody actually cares.
And I think that makes a big difference in people's lives, and knowing that they're not alone. I always tell them. "You never walk alone." And I mean that from two perspectives, one is that I'm watching out, but the other is that God is with you.
It's funny I talk about it. I talk with my patients [inaudible] about religion, but it's never about Islam. It's always about Christianity, because they're mostly Christians. And what I was going to say, the other thing that-
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:15:04]
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: ... and what I was going to say, the other thing that can be done is language. Language is very important. For example, in the talks that I give, I never use the term "Islamic extremism." I never use the term "Muslim fanatic" or "Muslim extremism," because remember the term even "Islamic" or "Muslim" is really honorific. As I was mentioning, I wouldn't use it to refer to those people. I refer to those people as criminalized religionists. Criminalized religionism is what I call it, and quite frankly, criminalization of release structures, can be not just religious. On January 6th 2021, we had over 2000 people storm the Bastille, so to speak, of the capital, and 138 police officers were injured in that. Right? They had criminalized the flag.
I mean, they're waving our flag which to us means so much. That's something that's important, I believe. I mean, some people, they develop animosity towards the flag because they say, "Oh, look, these guys are being idiots." They develop an animosity towards it. I don't. I wear that flag with pride, because what it means to me is that I can practice my tradition freely in this country, right? That I have the freedom to do that. This country, this constitution supports that. For me, there could be criminalized religionism, there could be criminalized politicism, and we just need to be careful of those things, and we need to do what we can to try and educate people and try and be good hosts. I mean, we're here for a short time. Omicron has taught us that, and before that, COVID, which is really the more deadly version, the strain that was before. Now more than ever, I think we need to think about that. We're here for a short time. What impact will we make? What will we be remembered for?
Kathy Minck: It's a little along those lines, because you're talking about inviting people for dinner, people who are maybe open to that. But I have a couple questions about, how do you speak out and speak up for people who are taking the other opinion? How do you educate these people? Someone words it as, "What do I do with people who subscribe to the philosophy of someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene?"
Dr. Stephen Llo...: I mean, I'll take the first stab at that. I mean, I think in the end, if you start off at the conclusion, it is really hard to make any progress. You got to unwind it to find your areas of commonality with them, and then try to peel back. Okay, why is it that they subscribe to this? What is the underlying fear that they have from it? What is driving this animus? Because for the most of the time when you have people in that camp, they have never even met a Muslim. They have created this thing, so I'll ask them then, "Okay, what is Islam to you?" Often they present this crazy radical thing. I go, "Okay, if Islam was that, I'd be scared too. That's a totally fair characterization."
Now fortunately, it is not that. I can share with you just my experiences with Muslims I know, and share with you something back, but peeling back and trying to get at what is motivating it. What is their understanding, and then finding commonality at that base level, and then building back up? I find is a helpful technique. Because if you just start going, "Oh, you're an idiot. Wouldn't you know this?" People just butt heads.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: The other fact is, as we've mentioned before, is that fear and hate, they create this thing. Right? The Prophet Muhammad had said, "Harm no one, so no one will harm you. Harm no one, so no one will harm you." He also said, "Prevent harm, even if it is removing a sharp stone from the road." If the Prophet Muhammad felt this way about a sharp stone in the road and somebody potentially trampling it and harming their foot, how would he feel today about the roadside bomb that went off on April 15th, 2013, killing Martin Richard, eight-year old little boy? Right? How would he feel about that today? It is important. This is two sides of the same coin, is that we have to stand up against Islamophobia, and then we have to stand out against criminalized religionism, criminalized politicism, where innocent people are harmed for the sake of somebody's philosophy.
Kathy Minck: You talked briefly about SLO for Home, and a couple people have mentioned it. I do not know if you want to talk anymore about it. Vance Rogers also mentioned that they are welcoming any volunteers at SLO for Home.org.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: This is really a great effort that Dr Nustany, who I mentioned is involved, Dr Vance Rogers, involved with there is a lot of truly wonderful people involved. And that it is the rule plus. Right? Is the getting the chance to be around people that are just really remarkable human beings for one, but also being a part of SLO's hospitality. I think that we as a community are a very special community that you know, that when people ask for help, we help. And here we have people that are suffering and people that are in a difficult situation during, especially during COVID, which makes it especially hard, but helping can... it doesn't necessarily have to be in terms of money or giving them housing.
But there is so many ways. And I think reaching out to Dr Rogers, reaching out to SLO home, I think there can be plenty of different opportunities to help and assist. There is some talk about diversity in the Muslim community. And, and the fact is even me speaking today, really, it's hard for me to represent this community. I cannot say that I represent the Muslim community. I am a Sri Lanka Muslim, a reserve police officer, who is also a physician, right? My situation is very different than others. For example, for black youth that are African American Muslim youth growing up in the inner city, Gabriel for example, my son, we were just talking yesterday. He said he was sad. He was talking to me, he says, "dad, I", he is part of this project to try and take some of these kids to teach them how to surf and give them exposure to the outdoors and whatnot.
And he went down to a small mosque in south LA, which mostly African American. And he was chatting with the kids and saying, what are the things that you are worried about? What are the things that make you fearful? And one of the little boys told him, he said, "the thing that I'm worried about is that one day I'm going to be shot by a police officer. And the other thing I'm worried about is being run over by a white person with their car." And this is what I am talking about, about giving people an opportunity to experience, not the media, but to experience, for example, how awesome would it be for those kids to come up and meet police officers here in SLO, or to come and meet people from their same tradition, right? That are actually involved in law enforcement.
I have to say, for example, in San Obispo, our R P D and our Sheriff's office, I have to say they are the most supportive, amazing people. And the only time that I've seen racism involving a police officer in San Obispo, has been our African American officers being abused verbally by patients in the emergency department, being called nasty names and whatnot. And those officers just keeping their cool and showing such amazing tolerance. I have to say that the experiences of different people are going to be different. There are... Somebody asked about Latino Muslims, there are a few Latino Muslims here in, in San Obispo, and that's actually a growing part of the community.
It is interesting, Nisha and I just got back from Loretto, and it is funny, Nisha was treated like a celebrity. She wears hijab. You know, she has the look of the Virgin Mary, everywhere we go. People just treated her like a celebrity. If we went to a restaurant, I said,"why don't you ask instead of me? Cause you'll get a little better treatment here."
Dr. Stephen Llo...: I would add to the diversity element is I, because there are a bunch of questions about a woman or LGBTQ and with 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, there are Muslims who represent every possible variation of belief there. And I think one of the things that tends to happen when there's discussion about Islam is, is people will go and find the worst example of Islam against what the idea and compare it to the best from their own tradition.
That was actually something that George Bush had recently that we have a tendency to see the worst in others and the best in our own tradition. And so I just appreciated that yes, there have been Muslims who have mistreated women all over the place and that should be condemned, but there is also Islamic feminists. You know, Atatürks daughter became the very first women fighter pilot in the world. I mean, there's so many wonderful examples of strong Muslim women across places. It is just so much more complex than a caricature grounded on the Taliban, or a caricature grounded on ISIS. But the reality is for many Americans, their only access to Islam is in its most extreme forms in its, in Roche's terms, criminalized forms. Appreciating that diversity is just really important as going forward. And that also means, I think some of us have a desire to be like, oh, we're going to create a sort of Pollyanna utopian version of Muslims.
And the more you hang out with Muslims, you realize, you know what, they are just like everybody else. And they have the same petty arguments. They have the same politics that get in and, and that diversity plays both ways is both one of the most beautiful elements of Islam and all religious Christians. But it is also the most frustrating because you will find the same frustrating dynamics of humans interacting with each other that you will find other places. I would say though, one final thought on that is that, one of the really interesting to things about SLO is it.., in LA you, you might have a black mosque, you might have an Afghani mosque, you might have a Pakistani mosque, you might have an Iranian mosque and everybody's separate, SLO is small enough that the Muslims have to try to live together and not always successfully with lots of drama between it, but in many ways that's what Muhammad always imagined should happen.
This brotherhood and sisterhood of humans together and SLO is trying to make that happen because just given our size, there's just not the availability to silo Islam in the same way. And so in many ways when you meet the Muslim community here and you know, so many wonderful among them, awesome at Shamar, I mean just such a wonderful human being. It just expect the diversity there and appreciate that there's so many Muslims in our local community from so many rich backgrounds that are sharing their experiences with those of us who don't have them.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: One of the things really quick is that, the mention of do different sex of Islam worship together. And as, Stephen was saying here, we have at our mosque, your local mosque, there are people from the Suny tradition from area schools of thought from the Shia tradition, everybody's welcome there. And again, Islam really like other traditions, it is a very personal thing as well in that each person is going to practice it in their own interpretation here in the United States in their own way. And some people are more practicing, some people are less so, but again, it one united community in that regard.
Kathy Minck: Jan is wondering if anything is being done regarding Muslim discrimination in SLO County. How is it, how is bullying discrimination being handled in SLO County, if at all?
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: I think discrimination is just a reality. It is part of core? Steve, if somebody gets an application on their desk and you know, there's an agemid, that that person may get that second interview, one may not. The fact is the way we deal with that, and the way we get that is, is actually at a much larger level is giving people a chance and getting a chance to know people and to undercut this right now, the cottage industry of is not Islamophobia recent civil rights group put out a recent document and talk about 106 million dollars going to fund Islamophobia through these different groups in the United States, between 2017, 2019. It is a lot of money that could have been a lot of churches that could have been a lot of other synagogues, or other places of worship or, or services right for people. But really the people are, are literally funding misinformation about a community, which again, just really benefits nobody.
Dr. Stephen Llo...: I can add at Cal Poly, it's been sort of a mixed history, but President Armstrong is really trying to reach out to the Muslims. And we have, the Muslim Student Association is quite active and been receiving a lot of support recently towards outside. So at least at Cal Poly, fingers cross, things are turning a corner, I think.
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: And a little taste of Islam. You could maybe go over to Cham ar and enjoy some of awesome, delicious food. Anytime you have an opportunity, I think to get out and experience, meet people and experience their food and culture, I think is, is always a blessing step in the right direction.
Kathy Minck: Any other questions from anyone that's pretty much all of them that we went through. Any other questions from any attendees write them now, otherwise, any closing thoughts?
Dr. Rushdi Abdu...: Well, there's a saying of Mahatma Gandhi where he said that you must not lose faith in humanity. He said, "humanity is like an ocean, just because a few drops are dirty, it does not make the ocean dirty." And so to give people the benefit of the doubt, just to remember that we belong to that ocean, right. We belong to that ocean of humanity ,the philosophy that's taught in the Islamic tradition. The community is like one body. And that one finger is pricked that the entire body shakes with pain. And so let us get out there and protect each other. Let us get out there and support one other. Let us go out and speak well of each other. And let us look towards the resolution of conflicts instead of the conflict of civilizations.
Dr. Stephen Llo...: As Rushdi says it is the little things, not letting them go unanswered, not allowing the stereotype to slide under the door, but welcoming out and understanding, and even when it comes from somebody that, that there's an opportunity to love them and to, to educate them. I think it is the little things that really end up making the big differences. So, including all of you who decided to spend your Tuesday evening with the SLO Diversity Coalition and all the work that SLO Diversity Coalition does like Sarah and Cornell and to Mike, [crosstalk] and two friends, two friends, and a yes, that's what you need. This is going to be the new background for all the diversity coalition events.
Kathy Minck: I'm not sure everyone gets that reference.
Dr. Cornel Mort...: Well, Sarah first, thank you for your, as usual, your very excellent facilitation. And I just want to thank again, all of you for participating tonight and Dr. Calder, I need an invitation to that dinner. So I am looking in my mail every day for that. Thank you too much. I really appreciate it, Dr. Cader, your personal stories and experiences, they really add so much to this conversation in ways that make it an even more human experience. I really appreciate that. And of course, Dr. Lloyd Moffett, you never failed to be stellar. Your thorough presentations are just so important for this community. I want to thank both of you for the very, very fine work you did with us and conversation you helped us to have tonight. I just have two quick announcements. I also, by the way, I want to thank not only Sarah, but Kathy and Michael, Michael Boyer, Kathy Minck participated tonight.
And thank you so much for the work that you guys are doing. And everyone on the board, Gina Whitaker, who is part of the people of faith for justice community. She liked us to know all of you that on this Thursday, January 27th, they will release their new podcast, which features Dr. Lloyd-Moffett. So that podcast Gina tells me is very, very lively and engaging. And so I would invite you. We would invite you to tune in on Thursday when that podcast is released on this Thursday, the 27th. You can locate information by the way, at people of faith, for justice.org, people of faith for justice.org. And then lastly, the coalition will in February next month, our next dialogue will take up the issue of voting rights, the status of voting rights in our country, and even in our state. So be on the lookout for information for that conversation. I'm looking forward to it. We've already identified some outstanding speakers, and we are looking forward to that dialogue on voting rights, which will again, take place next month. We will confirm the date for you.
Again, everyone thank you for participating. And this program was recorded this evening. And so, if you want to go back and review any portions of it or invite others that you know who missed tonight's program, please let them know that the program is available at diversity, slo.org, diversity.org. Thank you so much. And everyone have a great evening.