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15 years After 9/11, U.S. Can 'Unlearn Stereotypes' about Muslims

The Muslim Educational Trust hosts panel discussions and other events regularly to promote understanding between people of different faiths. (Muslim Educational Trust)
The Muslim Educational Trust hosts panel discussions and other events regularly to promote understanding between people of different faiths. (Muslim Educational Trust)
September 9, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - This Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and American-Muslim communities across the country still face a backlash. Hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. have risen, according to the FBI, even as hate crimes against other communities have decreased.

Sahar Bassyouni, board member of the Muslim Educational Trust in Portland, said Muslims are just one of many minority groups that have dealt with discrimination in the course of the country's history.

"We need to unlearn lots of stereotypes that we have," she said. "We have to be very conscious of how we view people who come from different backgrounds. My hope as an American-Muslim mother is for my kids to be seen as equal to anybody else."

Bassyouni added she hasn't personally run into discrimination in Portland, but her daughter has.

A study of prime-time news by Media Tenor found that Islam was mentioned more than any other religion, and that the coverage was overwhelmingly negative. Bassyouni agreed the media has a tendency to reinforce stereotypes.

"I get really upset when I hear that any crime that's committed by a Muslim is immediately tied in with Islam, and 'radical Islam' and 'Islamic terrorism,' and all of these terms that unfortunately have been crafted post-9/11," she added.

She thinks it's important to counteract some of the negative media attention, in part, by people reaching out and getting to know the American-Muslims in their community.

"If you have a Muslim neighbor, if you have a Muslim coworker, if your child goes to school with a Muslim student, I would encourage you to get to know us, because once you do, nothing that the media will say will matter, because you will have experience firsthand," she explained.

On the second Saturday of every month, the Muslim Educational Trust holds a public forum at its location in Tigard to encourage dialog between people and faiths.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR