How people in Muslim countries view the U.S.
& how people in the U.S. view Muslims
classroom materials below encourage students to examine their
knowledge of and thinking about U.S. policy toward Muslims and
Muslim countries; how people in Muslim countries view the U.S.;
and how people in the U.S. view Muslims. They include poll questions,
brief case studies for student discussion, and a critical thinking
may be a sensitive subject for students, particularly Muslim students,
and it requires a safe classroom environment in which students'
feelings and values are respected. You might want to begin with
a preliminary discussion aimed at finding out what students know,
think and feel about the subject. You may also want to read TeachableMoment.Org's
Issues: Guidelines for Teachers."
of these materials might well lead to some study of basic Islamic
beliefs. See the TeachableMoment lesson on "Islam
and the West" for a possible approach. The lesson provides
an overview of the historical relationship between Islam and the
Respond to each of the following questions with Y (yes), N (no),
or DN (don't know.)
I know little or nothing about Islamic religious practices.
2. Islam is very different from my own religion.
3. Islam encourages violence.
4. I have a favorable impression of Muslim Americans.
5. I have a favorable impression of Muslims.
6. I know at least one Muslim.
results of a Pew Research Center national poll of 3,002 American
adults published 9/25/07 on each of these questions (www.people-press.org):
2. Yes: 79%
3. Yes: 45%
4. Yes: 53%
5. Yes: 43%
6. Yes: 56%
Have a show of hands on student responses to compare with
the Pew results.
What do students say they know about Islamic religious practices?
What are their sources of information? How accurate are their
What do students say about the differences between their own religion
(if it is not Islam) and the Islamic religion? How accurate are
What do students say about that statement that "Islam
encourages violence?" Why? How accurate are their responses?
What difference, if any, is there in student responses to
items #4 and #5? How do they explain the difference, if there
Compare the responses to items #4 and #5 of those who know at
least one Muslim
with those who don't. How do students explain any differences?
Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan who teaches
Middle Eastern and South Asian history, has written: "Very
few Muslims are either violent or fundamentalist
10 to 15 percent of Muslims throughout the world
support a fundamentalist point of view, including the implementation
of Islamic law as the law of that state. But they are not typically
violent, and the United States has managed to ally with some of
them, as with the Shiite fundamentalist Dawa Party of Iraqi Prime
Minister Nuri al-Maliki." (Juan Cole, "Combating Muslim
Extremism," The Nation, 11/19/07)
Respond to each of the following questions with Y (yes), N (no),
or DK (don't know.)
Should college or university officials agree to the request of
Muslim women that a gym be restricted to women at certain times?
Should a Muslim woman be required to remove her head scarf after
being arrested and taken to a jail?
Should police round up and jail Muslim men if American buildings
are destroyed without warning?
Should a Muslim professor of Islamic studies who has criticized
U.S. policies be allowed to enter the U.S. and teach at an American
Should a newspaper be allowed to publish cartoons making fun
of the Prophet
Are most Muslims of Arab descent?
Discuss students' responses to the questions.
on the questions:
Harvard University did so recently at the request of Muslim
women who "felt that workout clothes violated the Muslim
prescription that both sexes wear modest dress in shared environments."
(New York Times, 3/21/08)
A Muslim woman arrested in San Bernardino County, California was
required by jail authorities to remove her head scarf. (www.aclu.org,
Immediately following 9/11, hundreds of Muslim men in the U.S.
were jailed for months. None were indicted for terrorist acts.
Some were deported for visa violations.
Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim scholar of Swiss nationality who lives
in Britain, was invited several years ago to teach at Notre Dame
but prevented from doing so when his visa was revoked without
A Danish newspaper published such cartoons several years ago,
setting off angry Muslim demonstrations around the world.
Most Muslims are not of Arab descent. For example, most people
in such majority Muslim countries as Indonesia and Turkey as well
as in India and China, where they do not make up the majority,
are not ethnically Arab. The Muslim populations of those four
countries are over 400 million of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.
Below is a brief case study for discussion and a student decision
about the modesty requirements followed by devout Muslim women.
(Related to items 1 and 2 above)
Medina was arrested in Pomona, California, on December 7, 2005,
for having an invalid train pass. The arresting officer accused
her of being a terrorist and a supporter of Saddam Hussein. When
she tried to explain why she wears a hijab (Arabic for "cover"),
or head scarf, to cover her hair, ears, neck and part of her chest,
he would not listen. A devout Muslim, she obeys the principle
that a woman must remain covered in the presence of men, except
those in her immediate family.
the jail she was forced to remove the hijab and remain uncovered
much of the day in the presence of men she did not know. She was
eventually released without charge. The American Civil Liberties
Union filed a lawsuit against Bernardino County for violation
of California's civil rights law. A judge has required that county
officials answer Medina's complaint, dismissing the county's explanation
that she hadn't been physically forced to remove her hijab. The
case is pending. (www.aclu.org,
would students rule in this case? Why?
Should Muslims be arrested in the event of a catastrophe like
9/11? If so, why? (Related to item 3 above.)
Below is a brief case study on the World War II round-up of 120,000
people of Japanese background for student discussion.
February 19, 1942, two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order
9066. It called for the round-up of about 120,000 people of Japanese
background who lived on the West Coast. Of those 120,000, 45,000
had come from Japan many years earlier but were prevented by U.S.
law from becoming American citizens. Most of the remaining 75,000
detainees were young people who had been born in the United States
and spoke American English.
were ordered to abandon their homes and businesses and leave most
of their belongings behind. They were eventually taken to relocation
centers in desert areas, mostly in the Southwest United States,
where they lived in tar-paper barracks. Most worked at such unskilled
jobs as harvesting sugar beets. The last of the relocation centers
were shut down in 1946, a year after World War II ended. It took
more than 40 years for these Japanese-Americans to receive any
indemnity for what they had lost. That came in 1988 when the 60,000
former detainees who were still alive received $20,000.
do students explain President Roosevelt's decision? What similarities
do you see between the detaining of people of Japanese background
and the detaining of Muslims after 9/11? Differences? Why do you
suppose Roosevelt did not make the same decision about German-Americans
or Italian-Americans? If students need to know more to answer
these questions, what sources do they think might be helpful?
See item 4 above. Was Tariq Ramadan treated unfairly? Do you
need to know more before answering this question? If so, what
questions would you need to answer? How might you answer them?
See item 5. above. How
might you find out more about the Danish cartoons and the reaction
to them? Especially since 9/11, slurs, jokes and cartoons about
Muslims have appeared in American media. Should they be banned?
Why or why not?
5. See item 6 above. How
would you explain why so many Americans think most Muslims are
of Arab descent?
What do people in Muslim nations think about U.S.
to a recent study, a strong majority of people in four major Muslim
countries--Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia--believe that:
Islam is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy."
U.S. wants to maintain "control over the oil resources
of the Middle East."
U.S. should "remove its bases and military forces from
all Islamic countries."
U.S. should be pressured "to not favor Israel."
U.S. leaders may frame the conflict as a war on terrorism, people
in the Islamic world clearly perceive the U.S. as being at war
with Islam," said Stephen Kull, editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org,
which published the study. In later testimony before a House committee,
he also said, "Muslims share the worldwide view that the
U.S. does not live up to its own ideals of international law and
numbers also favor attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan,
and in the Persian Gulf," Kull noted. "Support is strongest
in Egypt, where at least eight in ten approve of attacking U.S.
troops in the region
.Pakistanis are divided about attacks
on the American military--many do not answer or express mixed
feelings-while Indonesians oppose them."
significant results of the study
percent express positive feelings toward Osama bin Laden.
Most disapprove of "groups that use violence against civilians,
such as al Qaeda." In Pakistan, however, opinion was divided
and many did not respond to a question on this issue.
Most would "keep Western values out of Islamic countries."
Most approve "the world becoming more connected through
greater economic trade and faster communication."
Most agree that "a democratic political system is a good
way to govern their country."
Most support the idea that in their country "people of
every religion should be free to worship according to their
were among the results of an in-depth public opinion study, "Muslim
Public Opinion on U.S. Policy, Attacks on Civilians and al Qaeda,"
produced at the University of Maryland by its Program on International
Policy Attitudes. Well over 400 million Muslims live in the four
countries polled. (www.worldpublicopinion.org,
Assign the following reading from an op-ed article, "Too
Scary for the Classroom," by Tariq Ramadan, the Muslim scholar
referred to in Questionnaire II.
should read the excerpt from the article as open-mindedly as possible
and then the factual examples supporting his views. Ask them to
suppress their critical responses and make an effort to believe
that he might be right. Emphasize that this does not necessarily
mean agreeing with everything Ramadan wrote. In short, it means
playing the "believing game."
"Teaching Critical Thinking,"
at www.teachablemoment.org., under high school teaching strategies,
for a detailed discussion of this process, which includes the
believing game as well as the doubting game, inquiring, and integrating
"In the Arab and Islamic world, one hears a great deal of
legitimate criticism of American foreign policy. This is not to
be confused with a rejection of American values. Rather, the misgivings
are rooted in five specific grievances: the feeling that the United
States role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unbalanced;
the long-standing support of authoritarian regimes in Islamic
states and indifference to genuine democratic movements (particularly
those that have a religious bent); the belief that Washington's
policies are driven by short-term economic and geostrategic interests;
the willingness of some prominent Americans to tolerate Islam-bashing
at home; and the use of military force as the primary means of
of war, the Arab and Muslim worlds seek evidence of a lasting
and substantive commitment by the United States to policies that
would advance public education, equitable trade and mutually profitable
economic and cultural partnerships. For this to occur, America
first has to trust Muslims, genuinely listen to their hopes and
grievances, and allow them to develop their own models of pluralism
believe Western Muslims can make a critical difference in the
Muslim majority world
.However, we can succeed only if Westerners
do not cast doubt on our loyalty every time we criticize Western
governments. Not only do our independent voices enrich Western
societies, they are the only way for Western Muslims to be credible
in Arab and Islamic countries so that we can help bring about
freedom and democracy. This is the message I advocate. I do not
understand how it can be judged as a threat in America."
Ramadan, New York Times, 9/1/04
examples supporting Tariq Ramadan's views:
year, the U.S. gives Israel $3 billion yearly in aid--mostly
Many Muslims view this and other aid as supporting the occupation
of Palestinian land and the impoverishment and suppression of
the Palestinian people.
The U.S. provides both financial and diplomatic support for
authoritarian regimes in Islamic states including Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, and Pakistan.
The U.S. has deep economic and strategic interests in the Middle
East, including protecting oil interests and Israel. It supports
these interests in part with military bases in largely Muslim
nations in the Persian Gulf that are under authoritarian rule
(Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates).
The U.S. stated that its reasons for invading Iraq included
regime change, the liberation of the Iraqi people, and the establishment
According to repeated polls of the Iraqi people by the U.S.
Department of Defense, most Iraqis believe that the U.S. occupation
makes peace less possible in their country and creates violence
rather than quelling it. Most Iraqis believe that the U.S. remains
in Iraq because of its oil. And they think that the U.S.'s decision
to build a number of substantial bases in Iraq indicates its
decision to stay indefinitely. (www.zmag.org)
2. Have students reread the Ramadan excerpt as a preliminary
to playing the "doubting game." Ask them this time to
subject Ramadan's views to critical questions. Then they should
analyze their questions for clarity, and choose one or more of
the questions as a basis for inquiry.
The final step in the process is to have students review their
thinking during the course of the exercises and subject themselves
and the issues they have studied to a written analysis.
lesson was written for TeachableMoment.Org, a project of Morningside
Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. We
your comments. Please email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.