GREENSBORO- UNC Greensboro Associate Professor, Omar Ali wants society to see Muslims as ordinary people.
It’s a cultural identification as much as it is a religious practice”, said Ali. But too often he said, Americans are introduced to Islam through the media, getting a false impression about one of the World's most widely practiced religions.
“There are very small amounts of people within the larger Muslim world who are portraying a very negative view of what it means to be Muslim,” he said.
While we've seen the use of mass media create sweeping changes in our country, terror groups like ISIS, Al Shabaab, and Al Qaeda have used mass communication platforms to portray what Ali said is a false face of Islam that preys on the disenfranchised to help spread their propaganda. “A lot of the young people who have become radicalized by Islam in some ways were not religious,"Ali said.
But beyond the obvious misrepresentations are simple facts about the religion and its practitioners.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 1.5 billion Muslims in the World. Most of them live in the Asia Pacific, not the Middle East like many people think.
“Islam tends to be portrayed as homogenous when it really is not. It’s very diverse,” said Ali. The United States is home to about 2.5 million Muslims.
“I think people recognize the great diversity of Muslims in the world,” he said.
Neighbors you may have more in common with than you think.
"They’re concerned about everything from issues of poverty, social injustices," said Ali.
It may be mundane, but Ali said it’s a more accurate picture than what you’ll likely see on the evening news.