In homes and mosques across Orange County, Muslim Americans are celebrating a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset in celebration of Ramadan.
…and so reads the July 30, 2011 article in the OC Register regarding the beginning of Ramadan. My colleague at CAIR Los Angeles worked hard to get community members, identify story leads and pitch a story to various newspapers in the Greater Los Angeles area to get a story out like this. Often times all it takes if for you to sit down and create a pitch, contact your local newspaper or reporter and all of a sudden you get a front page story in your local newspaper. Not everything becomes a front page story, not everything becomes a story. But if you try than most likely you will get some sort of direction, some connection in the local media along with potential brownie points in the future if there is some story and a need arises for a Muslim person to make a comment. This, however, is not limited to just American Muslim community. It’s for everyone who cares to interact with the media.
We complain about the media for one reason or another, but at the end of the day, journalism is a profession with its own guidelines and work styles. If you can bring yourself to understand it then you can utilize its potential. However, if you try to “change” it then you wont get really far.
When a Pew Study in 2003 suggests that 40% of Americans believe that “Islam is a violent religion” it’s no joke that we got our work cut out for us. Worse, in 2010 another Pew Study suggested that 25% of those surveyed believed that a local community can block the construction of Mosque should be startling to all Americans, but especially American Muslims. The question is what does this mean for us?
Well the answer lies in the 2010 Pew Study where 55% of those surveyed say they do not know very much (30%) or know nothing at all (25%) about the Muslim religion and its practices; 35% say they know some about the religion while just 9% say they know a great deal. The vast majority of those surveyed know next to nothing about Islam and their feelings toward Islam are largely that it is a “violent religion”. Of those surveyed 41% responded that they did not personally KNOW a Muslim.
If these 41% had a oppurtunity to KNOW a Muslim, would they be able to have favorable views of Islam? Most likely yes. The problem is we dont go about getting to share our religion with others, we dont humanize our religion and we focus too much on the Haram and the ritual. The Prophet SAW lead by example, it was his character and his practices that lead to others other him changing and becoming Muslim. While I do not advocate for conversion to Islam, because in honesty everyone one person we celebrate coming to Islam, at least two Muslims leave or find Islam less attractive. But I do advocate is a dawah that focuses on showing people what we as American Muslims are all about. The OC Register article is a GREAT first step, but we got to do more. Each one of us has to serve that role as a ambassador of American Islam. I say American Islam because I believe it is here in America where we have such a breadth of diversity in Islamic opinion that no one group can monopolize the face of Islam.
I encourage you all to learn how to play that role. First you can check out this guide that CAIR has put out on how to share Ramadan with others. If you need help you can always call your local CAIR chapter to get advice, if there is no chapter close to you feel free to call CAIR National or the CAIR Los Angeles office (714-776-1847). And I know I already have touted the Islamic Institute of Orange County in a previous post, but they are having an event tomorrow to train community members on how to do media work and public speaking around Ramadan, so please attend!