The media’s social responsibilities include objective reporting but it doesn’t always stand up to its responsibilities and perpetuates harmful stereotypes. Muslims have gained quite a negative reputation in America since the tragedy of 9/11 and media has played a huge role in it. Fortunately, I come from an educated family where there is huge emphasis placed on objective thinking and an open mind and this may be the reason I have been able to avoid stereotypes that are common in the society.
When I was in middle school, a refugee family from Iraq moved to my neighborhood. The family included a son named Ali who was close to my age. I noticed that many of my neighborhood friends avoided him because they believed Muslims hate Americans. I also hesitated in the beginning but my parents encouraged me to befriend him because few bad eggs in Islam cannot represent the whole religion just as KKK doesn’t represent Christianity. As I befriended Ali and my friends got to know him through me, their perceptions also started changing about Islam and Middle Eastern people.
I had succeeded in changing my friends but I realized the negative perceptions about Islam must still be quite alive in my community as they are in many other American communities. Thus, I suggested to my friends to organize an “Ask about Islam” information session in a local park on Sunday when my families are there. I persuaded Ali and his parents to lead the information session. The information session was a great success and I know this because many families proclaimed they had learnt something new at the session and their views about Muslims had changed. Some of them even suggested holding such sessions again.
The whole experience taught me that communication and an open mind are the key to discovering truth. I also learnt that people often do not fear others due to legitimate reasons but out of ignorance. Most people in the world are peace-loving no matter where they come from. We should educate ourselves instead of leaving it to others to tell us what we should believe in. I have also been involved in other efforts to promote diversity but this experience of promoting religious diversity is one of the most memorable ones for me.