Monday, June 8, 2009

In Obama, U.S. Muslims Find New Ally

American Muslims emboldened by having the most powerful man in the world on their side are taking the opportunity to hit the the streets in an attempt to brainwash those uninformed on Islam to respect Islam. This Muslim woman has mastered the use of the Muslim victim card to gain sympathy.

In Obama, U.S. Muslims Find New Ally
The Washington Post
By Eli Saslow

Hartford - Seventeen years in this city, a house in the suburbs, almost a decade spent explaining Islam at training seminars across the state - and still Aida Mansoor walks on eggshells. Even in Hartford, a liberal city rich in diversity, practicing Islam in 2009 means she ignores the jokes about her hijab and dismisses the hate mail sent to her mosque. It means she spends a Thursday morning in late May standing here, a few steps inside the Hartford Public Library entrance, repeating a Muslim greeting to 30 strangers as they file silently past. “Salaam aleikum,” she says, over and over, and then translates. “Peace be with you.”

Her attempts at cross-cultural connection can sometimes feel futile, says Mansoor, 41. But her energy this year has been fortified by a powerful new ally: President Obama, a Christian who has promised unprecedented outreach to the Muslim world. More than 85 percent of Muslims in the United States approve of Obama's performance as president, according to a recent Gallup poll, which is his strongest endorsement from any religious group. Obama traveled to Egypt to give a speech about Islam on Thursday, his attempt to bridge two cultures - American and Islamic - so often at odds.

”What he says could go a long way toward dispelling the myths,” Mansoor says. “For a long time, Muslims have been the bad guys in this country. There is so much hate and misunderstanding, and he might be able to help the world overcome some of it.”

Before Obama hosts his global diversity seminar, Mansoor begins her local equivalent. Her class of 30 includes Christians, Jews, blacks, whites and Hispanics. Most are here at the recommendation of their bosses. A nurse and a teacher were told that diversity training would help them interact with Muslim clients; a human relations expert from the city of Hartford takes copious notes to share later with co-workers. Three representatives from the U.S. Census sit in the front row with a list of basic questions - “How do you greet a Muslim? What are the Muslim holidays?” - aimed to improve their 2010 survey.

Mansoor has enlisted help from a few Muslim panelists and Kashif Abdul-Karim, the resident imam at her mosque. She sits near the front of the room while Abdul-Karim begins the seminar with a question.

”What do you think of when you hear the word, 'Muslim?'” he asks the students. In his hand, he carries a packet of statistics from the American Religious Identification Survey that offers some possible answers: 67 percent are under 40 years old; 46 percent are college-educated; 12.4 percent are engineers. “Just shout out your answers,” Abdul-Karim says, and the students oblige.

”Poor, uneducated immigrant.”




Mansoor watches intently, sensing a crossroads that will send the seminar in one of two directions. Maybe this will be one of the good sessions, when attendees exchange business cards and say, “peace be with you,” as they walk out the door. Or maybe it will be one of the bad sessions, like when a student undermined her by distributing fliers headlined, “What They're Hiding: The Real Islam.”


Eventually, Mansoor finishes with a video of an experiment conducted by a television station. The clerk at a bagel shop pretends to refuse service to a Muslim woman, and the camera focuses on other customers' responses. Three customers congratulate the clerk for taking a stand against “un-American terrorists.” Several others leave the store in protest. One man, moved to tears, tells the clerk that, “every person deserves to be treated with respect, dignity.”

Mansoor stops the tape and turns on the lights. She's crying.

”This always brings tears to my eyes when I see it,” Mansoor says. “This is what we face every day. Every day. Maybe it gives you a little bit of an idea what it must feel like. What are your reactions?”

Nobody speaks.

Link to Article

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