CAIRO - American Muslims are optimistic about changing wrong perceptions about their faith, pinning their hopes on the shoulders of the third-generation teens on clearing the widespread misconceptions about the sizable minority.
I'm optimistic that the negative perceptions will decline, Haris Tarin, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)'s Washington DC office, told Arab News.The optimism follows the defeat of several Islamophobic candidates in US Congress election last month.
In Florida, Republican Representative Allen West, who described Islam as a totalitarian theocratic political ideology that is a very vile and very vicious enemy, lost to his Democrat challenger Patrick Murphy.
Republican Adam Hasner, who is known for championing events to taint the image of Muslims, was also voted down by voters in Florida.
Republican Representative Joe Walsh, who said that radical Islam exists now in the United States, was also defeated in his re-election bid in Illinois.
In Arkansas, Republican candidate Charlie Fuqua, who has called for the deportation of all Muslims from the US, lost his bid for Congress to Rep. James McLean.
(The voters said) we don't want that kind of extreme rhetoric, Tarin said.
US Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have been sensing a growing hostility in recent years following a hearing by Republican representative Peter King on what he described as radicalization of US Muslims.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
Another US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.
The MPAC leader opines that third-generation Muslims are pivotal in changing the negative views about the sizable minority.
Younger (non-Muslim) people get it, Tarin said.
Those who have personal relationships with Muslims are less likely to have negative feelings.
The challenge is how to get to those people not touched by Muslims, he said.
Tarin cites the success of young Muslims in winning support for the election of Mohammed Hameeduddin as the first Muslim mayor in Teaneck, New Jersey, through gross campaigning.
We are slowly progressing toward tolerance.
Tarin cites the hosting of MPAC annual convention at California All Saints Episcopal Church as a sign of the changing perceptions about Muslims.
We want the world to see an example of how all faiths can come together, Tarin said.
What we wanted to do in the church will show a good sign for what we are doing in the community.
Though the hosting has earned the church the ire of Christian groups, priests have insisted that the convention was an opportunity to confront religious bigotry in the country.
Although Christians can be hateful, the All Saints congregation was unconditional and enthusiastic in its support to host the MPAC event, senior pastor Edwin Bacon said.
We have always been open and hospitable to Jews and Muslims, so what we are doing is not really notable for us.All Saints is deeply committed to interfaith. This is an opportunity to teach American Christians about Islam.