Thoughts on Fighting Prejudice

Scholars and religious leaders should organize initiatives to protest violence and acts of hate done in the name of religion. Violent interpretations of religious documents and history have often been used to justify hostilities towards different groups. Religious communities in the Middle East should become more active in protesting these interpretations as a part of seeking social justice. The responsiblity lies with politicians to work with religious leaders and scholars in leading counter-terror initiatives that would influence public opinion. It is also necessary for governments to make sure that the education system follows a uniform curriculum compatible with religious tolerance and peace.

A mindset needs to be promoted that views the State of Israel as being of value not only to the Jewish Diaspora, but also the entire world. An initiative that highlights Israel as a living museum of the Abrahamic religions, which are central to the shared history and cultural heritage of humanity, could help advance this mindset. For example, we can envision the creation of displays and exhibits utilizing a consistent format related to events important to the Abrahamic religions that took place in Israel. Each display and/or exhibit could be located at what is considered by scholars to be the site of the related event, with an interfaith panel of curators managing the exhibits.

The media should also make a concerted effort to reduce the prejudices that exist today against Jewish people and the State of Israel. Too often, news outlets have reported anti-Israel propaganda that is either untrue, exaggerated, or fails to give enough background information. We hear in the news of Israel’s ground missions in Gaza, for instance, but international news outlets tend to not report the thousands of rockets that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups aim at civilians annually. Such misconstrued reporting contributes to the growing anti-semtism and anti-Israel sentiments worldwide. The news is often where people develop their prejudices; so, media outlets should make sure that what they are reporting is true, provide background information, and report events in a fair and balanced manner in order to avoid promoting hostile attitudes against Jews and the State of Israel.

Finally, acts of terrorism against civilian targets are completely incompatible with any correct interpretation of the teachings of Islam.  Islamic scholars need to urgently and repeatedly issue joint statements teaching this truth and condemning all types of terroristic actions targeting civilians.  If this is done and leads to a significant reduction in the number and severity of terroristic acts, fears and prejudices spread throughout the world (and especially in the West) about Islam and Muslims, which sometimes rise to the level of irrational Islamophobia, will naturally decrease over time.

About the Author
Holly Bicerano is a student in the BA/MA Program at Boston University. She is pursuing an MA in Economics and a BA with a double concentration in Economics and Middle East and North Africa Studies. Her foreign language studies include Arabic, Hebrew, and Spanish. She has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey.