Dispelling Myths to Break Down Barriers
What happens when a diverse group of people gathers to discuss the implications of bias from various perspectives? Minds, eyes and hearts are opened.
That’s what happened when the University of Missouri-Kansas City Division of Diversity and Inclusion hosted “Dismantling Islamophobia,” a dialogue intended to unpack and dispel myths associated with Islamic faith and culture.
Nearly 40 faculty, staff and students came together in Bloch Executive Hall on Monday Sept. 25 to hear hip-hop activist, poet and social justice advocate Amer F. Ahmed, Ed.D. cultivate dialogue centered around Islamophobia. Ahmed is an Ohio native born to Indian Muslim immigrants. According to his official bio, he “draws on lived experience, deep theoretical analysis and practical application to guide institutions, leadership and workplaces on a path to transformative change.” Ahmed also serves as Director of Intercultural Teaching and Faculty Development at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Throughout his presentation, Ahmed provided the foundational background of Islamic faith, unpacked myths and realities about Islam as a religion and culture, and encouraged open and safe discussion among attendees.
“When Dr. Ahmed talked about reshaping our lenses, he helped me learn how I got to where I am in my feelings, and not that I was a culprit and my feelings were wrong,” said Bonnie Branson, UMKC School of Dentistry professor. According to Ahmed, there is a lack of context in American society that leads to Islamophobia and drives laws affecting Muslim communities. Ahmed offered suggestions attendees could use to become an ally for Muslim communities.
Those suggestions include:
- Foster relationships with Muslim citizens
- Participate in Muslim cultural activities in your community
- Be an ally in your personal lives
- Have broad-based campus outreach
- Utilize available off-campus community resources
- Create spaces for open dialogue
- Establish a reporting system for racism and hatred
“The opportunity for alliances is more likely than we realize because we see different things happening across various cultures,” said Ahmed.
UMKC Diversity Statement:
“UMKC values diversity as central to its mission as an urban-serving research university and as a driver of excellence in teaching and learning. UMKC embraces a broad spectrum of diversities, including race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, linguistic ability, learning style, religion, socioeconomic and veteran status, life experiences, educational level and family structure.”