Anxiety about Islam pervades the U.S. public. A Washington Post poll in April 2009 found nearly 46 percent of U.S. citizens had a negative perception of Islam. Glen Beck’s assertion that 10 percent of Muslims were terrorists is a recent and famous example of a media source fanning the flames of ignorance. Beck’s claim was both dangerous and absurd. And loud, dangerous, and absurd things practically beg to be examined and dismantled. Fareed Zakaria took Beck down with loving care—watch it if you haven’t seen it yet.
But there are other, subtler, quieter misconceptions of Islam that also deserve a careful look. While it’s easy to discount and then dismantle the ridiculous assertions of figures like Beck, other assumptions about Islam can seep into the public consciousness. They remain under examined because on the surface they seem neither absurd nor dangerous. And perhaps they don’t lend themselves to being discredited by the mathematical logic that Zakaria was able to deploy either.
When The Choices Education Program produced curriculum resources on Iran’s Islamic revolution, one of the issues we wanted to help high school students consider was the role of women in Iran. We produced two fascinating interviews with Professors Shahla Haeri and Farzaneh Milani and then an online lesson for teachers to use in their classroom. They both answer a range of questions that are worth watching. Below are the videos used in the lesson “Women in Iran.”
- Do women and men have the same opportunities in Iran? [1:28]
- What role do women play in politics in Iran? [0:56]
- How did the lives of women change after the revolution? [2:44]
- Why do women in Iran wear the hijab or chador? [1:55]
- What are common misconceptions of Muslim women? [1:35]
Nurturing and encouraging a deeper understanding of Islam seems like it should be an obvious priority. (Remember, at the height of the Iraqi insurgency many top U.S. security officials did not know the difference between Shi’i and Sunni.)
There's a lot to do. Where should we start?