Thursday, April 28, 2011

DCCC speaker enlightens listeners about Arabs, Islam

Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
Dr. Jack Shaheen, an author and former CBS News consultant for Middle Eastern affairs, speaks about shattering the stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims to Davidson County Community College students at the college Tuesday morning. During his discussion, Shaheen showed video examples of stereotype reinforcements by the national media.
Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 2:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 2:44 p.m.
Students at Davidson County Community College were challenged Tuesday to “shatter the stereotypes” against Islam and Arab-Americans.
“The best way to shatter them is to speak out,” said Dr. Jack G. Shaheen, the speaker for the day. “It's good to speak out when you know someone is being singled out unfairly. To remain silent means you approve. Shatter a stereotype.”
Nearly 100 students and faculty members listened to the message from Shaheen in the Conference Center. Shaheen is a former CBS News consultant on Middle East affairs and author of several award-winning books.
“It was our hope that the discussion lead to a constructive interfaith dialogue,” said Lynne Watts, director of student life and leadership at DCCC. “Most of us know about Christianity and very little about other religions. I think he brought across the point not all Muslims are terrorists. We need to avoid grouping everyone as the same.”
Shaheen shared how he grew up in a small steel town south of Pittsburgh and was fortunate not to encounter any prejudice. He presented information to make attendees think about how they perceive Islam and Arab-Americans.
“I want them to see and understand how dangerous stereotypes can impact and change their life and the importance to recognize them and contest them so they can become better citizens,” Shaheen said. “We all have to remember we are all children” on the planet.
His quest to understand the culture started years ago when he realized that there wasn't any literature on the Arab and Islamic cultures. He also noticed that among African-Americans, Jews and Asian-Americans was one common theme — they were innocent people injured by others.
“I would hope that at some point — in your classes or on your own — you would think about similarities among Arabs, Islamics and other people,” he said. “I think it's important to understand the stereotypes of today and look back at the stereotypes of yesterday. We should never judge people or individuals on their color, creed or race.”
DCCC student April Noble thought Shaheen was entertaining and shared a lot about how the media and movies portray the two cultures.
“I never paid attention to small things in the media that he pointed out,” she said. “I think everybody is equal. It opened my eyes to the fact that the media portrays certain religions. This was wonderful because they're a lot of people who are racist and judgmental.”
Morgan James, another DCCC student, was enlightened by the speaker. She liked how he shared with the group there is not just one religion.
“I felt he was very informative and not biased,” she said. “He made very good points. He opened us up to the idea Arabs and Muslims are not people like we think they are. It's very important for the young people to hear this subject so they're not biased and teach their children not to be biased.”
Deneesha Edwards can be reached at 249-3981, ext 213, or at

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