Dalia Mogahed is a well-known and much admired Muslim-American scholar. She formerly served as Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and as an advisor to President Barack Obama. She is currently Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). She continues to represent Muslims with interviews in the news and throughout the media. On January 29 she spoke at George Washington University on the current situation of ‘Islam in America,’ and how we can make a difference. Here is a brief summary of her talk:

One would assume that anti-Muslim sentiment rises around the time of terrorist attacks claimed to have been committed in the name of Islam. Yet according to research conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, there is no such rise observed. Instead, it is during election season that anti-Islamic rhetoric arises. The reason behind this is not the creation of such sentiment by the candidates, but rather it is their use of already present insecurities and capitalization of increasing fears.

What must be done in order to limit these attacks on Islam? It begins with liberating the mind. You should internalize the message of moral compassion; for if you don’t fully understand the purpose of your religion, how can you change someone else’s opinion about it? Once you do so, it will shine through without you needing to anything extra. An easy way to achieve this is to learn more about and follow the character, personality, and everyday moments of the Prophet s.a.w. You should constantly strive to maintain this compassion and carry around an ‘armor’ of your faith since in the face of constant hate it is easy to become hardened.

We must speak up and call out anyone who is spreading false and negative messages. Although is more comfortable to sit back and ignore the problem, it will persist as long as it is shown condemnation. Instead of venting to your friend about the biased article you read in the news, make it your duty to demand the newspaper to produce something better. Unless we let the media know about our opinion, it will never change. People need to be held accountable for their mistakes; if someone is inaccurate, speak up and let those around you know the truth.

Zeynep Celik

Below you can watch Dalia Mogahed’s Feb 2016 TED Talk titled “What do you think when you look at me?”