Workshop sheds light on 'Islamophobia'
Discussion at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington centers on prejudice against Muslim religion
The media has helped distort the public’s perception about Islam and Muslims, according to one of the keynote speakers at a day-long conference in reducing public fear.
“My impression is Islam is the most misunderstood religion,” the Rev. M’Ellen Kennedy said during a workshop “Facing Islamophobia” at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington on Saturday.
“People are afraid of what they don’t know. When people are afraid they don’t think clearly,” said Kennedy, the founder of Peace and Unity Bridge.
“All you have to do is to get people afraid,” she said about causing the divide that can easily split a country.
She said there have been a barrage of anti-Muslim events throughout the United States in the past year or so.
Kennedy, who is both a Unitarian and a Sufi minister, said the workshop was designed to allow non-Muslims and Muslims to meet and talk and to get to know each other and explore Islam.
During an interview, Kennedy told the Burlington Free Press that the mosque in Colchester — the only one in Vermont — is a valuable resource. It has a weekly worship Fridays at 1 p.m.
She also urged people to visit a website PeaceandUnityBridge.org and watch the documentary “Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Think.”
During her talk, Kennedy said Americans can learn much from the Muslims, including stopping multiple times during the day to pray. She said also being generous and fasting from not just food, but activities food are strong traits.
She noted a recent worldwide survey by the Gallup polling company showed great misunderstandings. She shared some of the findings:
• That while conventional wisdom says Muslims resent freedom the West has to offer and a possibly insurmountable cultural chasm, the reality is that there are many similarities between Muslims and Americans that transcend culture, tradition and religion.
• That most women in the Muslim world are aware that they have the same capabilities and serve the same fundamental rights as men.
• That under one percent of the respondents said they considered violence to acceptable in religion.
About a dozen people attended the opening talk and later broke into small groups for discussions before the Zuhr Prayer time at noon.
A lunch with African food was planned for early afternoon followed by a panel of Muslins, who were prepared to answer questions.
Kennedy said about 40 people attended a similar conference in New Hampshire last week and that she and others will continue to spread the important word about understanding Islam and providing peace among people and religions.
Contact Mike Donoghue at 660-1845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.