By Fadel Al Mheiri
Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world, but in the United States Islam is often viewed negatively because of constant news about terrorism.
For the average Muslim who seeks peace and security as much as anyone else, that can be both sad and frustrating.
“I don’t think we always do a good job of telling our story,” says Fadel Al Mheiri, an Emirati filmmaker (www.tentpic.com) and author of the historical novel “Kingdom of Peacocks – Mists of Time.”
“We are just people and we have the same struggles as anyone else. But the extremists have been able to drive the narrative and that gives non-Muslims the wrong impression about the religion and the people who follow it.”
Through his storytelling – both in film and in print – Al Mheiri wants to change the perception.
“I think it’s our responsibility – my responsibility – to give a voice to the other side and let people know that what they see in the news isn’t representative of Muslims,” Al Mheiri says. “But I also encourage non-Muslims to take the initiative and learn all they can about the religion, because knowledge paves the way to understanding.”
To begin exploring Islam, he suggests that non-Muslims:
• Start with online research. This is the digital era, so information that can help educate people is just two or three clicks away. Personal research is always a good first step to learning. Just make sure the internet sources are legitimate, because the web has plenty of misinformation as well.
• Just ask. The best way to eliminate any mystery is to have a conversation, and most Muslims welcome sincere interest in and questions about their beliefs. Al Mheiri says not long ago in Washington, D.C., he met with a group from Indiana. “I got these great questions about ISIL and about why things are happening the way they are,” he says. “We talked about why the media focuses so much on negative things about Islam and why average Muslims are being silent.”
• Visit a mosque. Check with a nearby mosque about the possibility of paying a visit to learn more. Sometimes mosques hold events, such as open houses, where non-Muslim community members are invited with the express purpose of getting to know their Muslim neighbors and learning more about the religion.
“Each of us needs to do all we can to understand the lives and beliefs of others,” Al Mheiri says. “It’s important that we see each other as real people and not as the stereotypes that can drive us apart rather than bring us together.”
About Fadel Al Mheiri
Fadel Al Mheiri (www.tentpic.com) is an Emirati filmmaker and author of the historical novel, “Kingdom of Peacocks – Mists of Time,” the first of a trilogy about the Portuguese invasion of an imaginary kingdom in the Persian Gulf in the early 1500s. He graduated from the American University of Sharjah. He founded his own film production company, Tent Pictures Productions, in 2013 at the Abu Dhabi Media free zone Twofour54.