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Pulitzer Prize Winner Andrea Elliot Speaks on Rising anti-Muslim Sentiment

Andrea Elliot spoke to students at Duke university about the prevalent anti-Islam sentiment in American Society today. Here is an Excerpt from the Duke Chronicle,

Elliott discusses increasing anti-Islam sentiment

By Michael Shammas
March 31, 2011

American Muslims are facing increasing amounts of public distrust and hate speech, said Andrea Elliott, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times.

Elliott gave a lecture titled “Islam in a Post-9/11 America� in the Sanford School of Public Policy Wednesday afternoon to discuss the challenges Muslims face assimilating into American society. She stressed that some Americans are starting to believe that terrorism and Islam are synonymous, even though Muslims have fought for, and even died in the service of, the United States.

“The perpetrators of [the 9/11] attacks were of course not Muslim-American,â€? she said. “And even though some of their victims were, and even though thousands of American Muslims later served in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, this episode left many Muslims feeling they have lost their face in America to… fear and suspicion.â€?

The event was sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center, the Duke University Middle East Studies Center and the Sanford Institute’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy. After lecturing for nearly an hour, Elliott spent approximately 15 minutes taking questions from students and faculty in attendance.

Although 10 years have passed since the Sept. 11 attacks, Elliott said the amount of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has actually increased in the past few years. In August, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that only 30 percent of Americans held a favorable view of Islam. Five years earlier, the statistic was 41 percent. The poll’s results are reflective of recent events, Elliot noted.

“Just last year we’ve seen the fight over the Islamic center near ground zero, the spread of grass-roots opposition to the use of Shariah [Islamic law] and the buildings of mosques elsewhere in the country and the recent congressional hearings focused on Muslims,� Elliott said.

The media has largely been blamed for this resurgence in negative sentiment, with critics asserting that too much of the media’s coverage has focused on terrorism, she said. But people who solely blame the media are ignoring other factors at work such as “the tone set by the Bush administration� and the immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks, which gave Americans a “frenzied crash course� on the religion, Elliot added.

“[After 9/11], the press was scrambling to make sense of the attacks and a fringe interpretation of Islam [held by the hijackers] was at the center of the story,� she said. “[But] Islam in most of its vast complexity was a subject that most journalists, like most Americans, knew almost nothing about.�

Elliott spent the rest of her lecture discussing what she has learned about Islam from her own work. She described her experience reporting on the life of an imam in New York City—a three-part series called “An Imam in America� for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize—and the forced resignation of Debbie Almontaser. Almontaser was a Muslim who created the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first English-Arabic public school focusing on the study of Arabic language and culture, only to be accused of radicalizing her students by a recently-formed group called “Stop the Madrassa.� The accusations were baseless, Elliott said, but Almontaser was forced out and replaced by a “Jewish principal who spoke no Arabic.�

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  • Khalid

    Just curious do you know what khusboo means and do you know what badboo means? Kind of axing your own foot there, just didn’t know if it was accidental or intentional. OK here is the answer: khusboo means fragrance, a pleasant smell. badboo means a foul smell, a bad bad smell. Maybe you were going for ‘bad’ ‘boo’ and just stepped into it. I can’t see anyone calling themselves badboo on purpose. Hilarious!

  • badboo


    Well, you might not remember, the Taliban officially protected Bin Laden and
    Al Qaida, and the war against Afganistan was based on UN security council
    resolutions, and hence a legitimate war. What was unfortunate was the
    previous support of the United States of Wahabbi madrassas, Taliban and Bin
    Laden during the Russian war with the subsequent abandon of Afganistan
    by the international community after the fall of communism, the fault of all previous US governments (and many others). That whole thing has lead to the today’s tragic situation.

    The war in Iraq was illegitimate though, what a mess…

    (Also as a side-effect, the Iraq war aggravated Ali Khamenei’s anti-reform paranoia, who began to support rhetorically hardliners like Ahmadinejad who with the confidence that they have now a foothold in Iraq became bolder and bolder. All this ended with the bloodshed of the innocent on the streets of Tehran. Thank you Mr. Bush again for the mess, and what has followed now: We’re in a positive feedback loop and we’ll see more and more of this multi-lateral paranoi in the years to come)

  • jacque

    @Isa: Some of his most controversial rhetoric against Muslims contained terms like evildoers and Crusades when describing the Iraq War. It is not directly hateful, but everyone knows what he was trying to imply.

  • Khushboo

    Isa, I agree that he did say that which sounded nice but what he did was far worse: Starting war against Afghanistan and Iraq without just cause. I’m still wondering what happened to the so called “WMDs” and what does the Talibans have to do with 9/11 attack?? I’m sure Al Qaeda is jumping with joy for our stupidity.

  • Isa

    “But people who solely blame the media are ignoring other factors at work such as “the tone set by the Bush administrationâ€?

    I actually think Bush Jr. gets undeserved flack on this particular subject. Right after 9/11, he made it clear that “Islam” did not attack the WTC towers, but a fanatical group with extremist interpretations. He also invited an Imam to speak at one of his 2004 campaign rallies; this being to the chagrin of some of his Evangelical supporters who had been pushing the “Islam is Evil” line. Many, many things can be said about other things he did as President, but I never saw him give in to the violent Islamophobic rhetoric that we see so often on the Right these days.

  • Khushboo

    Thank you Ms. Elliot!

  • mindy1


  • corey

    I guess they want to pick people who don’t know a thing about arabic over people who do that way when spencer comes to lecture at a class he wont be corrected by actual experts of the arabic language when he uses his pseudo scholarship tactics to demonize an entire religion and its followers.

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