"Mend Growing West-Islam Rift by Reading, Taking Trips Abroad," a Commentary by Hussam Ayloush

April 8, 2007

Author: Hussam Ayloush

Source: The Press-Enterprise


With the rapid spread of misinformation on the Internet and TV, and the destructive conflict in the Middle East, no one can afford to ignore a widening cultural, religious and political divide between the West and Islam.

Zogby International and the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies conducted polls in six "friendly" Muslim countries and reported that only 12 percent of respondents had a positive attitude toward the United States. Similarly, a Gallup survey reported that nearly 40 percent of Americans admitted to having some prejudice toward Muslims.

However, according to a BBC World Service poll across 27 countries, a majority of Muslims and Christians believe that the problem mostly derives from political conflict rather than a conflict in values or culture. They also believe that Muslims, non-Muslims and Westerners reject the idea that violent division is inevitable between Islam and the West.

Many people in the world, including Americans, strongly disagree with our government's foreign policies -- such as the Iraq war, and unconditional support for Israel and dictatorships in the Middle East. Those policies cause some in the Muslim world to falsely blame all Americans for the administration's policies.

Unfortunately, people fear what they don't know. So, the key to bridging the cultural and religious gap between Muslim countries and the West is to facilitate discourse, support interaction and reject stereotyping. This will foster the right atmosphere to resolve the political grievances.