What does the average American really know about Muslims and the religion of Islam? For all that we hear in the news every day, misperceptions abound. But a Michigan writer hopes to change that.
According to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center, Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity, with 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. Approximately 3.5 million of them live in the United States. Muslims are the majority in 49 countries.
Anne Marie Ameri of Dearborn felt she had to write Awakening the Sleeping Tiger Within: Breaking the Power of Mainstream Media’s Portrayal of Islam and The War on Terrorism (2016) to address misperceptions.
“I couldn’t sit back and do nothing,” Ameri says. “There was biased and inaccurate reporting by those who are not Muslim and had their own agenda, telling us what Muslims believe, making up things like if you kill a person, you will be rewarded with 72 virgins in heaven. Actually, what our holy book says is that if you kill one person, it’s as if you have killed all of humanity.”
Ameri studied history and psychology at Henry Ford College and Eastern Michigan University before earning her doctoral degree at Wayne State University. She also studied law at the University of Detroit-Mercy.
Ameri decided to apply her research skills to writing the book, and to develop strategies for overcoming misinformation about Islam. She says people should stay informed using a diverse selection of media to get an overall picture. That way, Ameri says they will be better able to separate what is true from politically motivated propaganda.
Ameri says demonstrations around the country protesting the Trump administration's recent executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries have been effective. As she puts it, "Dissent is not disloyalty. It’s being a patriotic citizen.”
Ameri says the message behind the title of her book is to awaken the “sleeping tiger” of the Muslim community that she sees as too passive.
“It’s the one negative point of the Muslim and Arab community,” she says. “Scholars for many years have called Dearborn the 'sleeping tiger,' because if the people there weren’t so passive, then they could be a wonderful force for political and legal activism. And not just the people of Dearborn, but I’m happy to see our Christian and Jewish friends, and people with or without religion, how they are standing up for Muslim rights, Hispanic rights, African-American rights, instead of endorsing the Muslim ban and the wall at Mexico.”
Ameri wishes that acts of terrorism not be labeled according to the religion of those who commit them. She says all of the world's major faiths have in common a striving for peace.
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