Lekovic Challenges Audience to Examine Islamophobia

March 27, 2013

The foundation of the Hammer Museum shook a few weeks ago when an event, hosted by The Hammer Forum, assembled a panel of four experts to explore the realities and implications of Islamophobia.

The panel was comprised of Edina Lekovic, MPAC's Director of Policy and Programming; Brian Levin, a Criminologist and Civil Rights Attorney, who is also the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at CSU San Bernardino; Rabbi Sarah Bassin, Executive Director of NewGround;  Ali Mir, Director of Muslim Student Life at University of Southern California; and the moderator, Ian Masters, a journalist, author, screenwriter, documentary filmmaker and host of the radio programs "Background Briefing" and "The Daily Briefing."

“I’ve really grappled with the word ‘Islamophobia’,” Lekovic said. “Is it merely a phobia? Are we fetishizing it? Diminishing it? Overplaying it?"

Lekovic said that it took her some time before she came to realize the accuracy of the word in the sense that it is an irrational fear, much like how arachnophobia is a fear of spiders even though they are more often than not harmless.

Islamophobia can be broken down into two distinct types: one fueled by ignorance and the other by hate.

“I grew up understanding Islam through a television screen,” she said. “That was my primary source of education on Islam so I don’t blame people who have a very distorted view of Muslims. After all, what are you to believe? The images that are broadcast on big and small screens or the average Muslim who says ‘Islam means peace’?”

When the time came for the audience to pose their questions to the panelists, Lekovic was met with the challenge of three individuals with a mixture of ignorant and hateful views.

“Everytime we say something you don’t like, then you call out ‘Islamophobe’! Why can’t you just be one of us?” asked one audience member.

Lekovic astutely asked the audience member: “Who’s us? We are all us. Unfortunately, I think what you are describing is exactly what we are talking about when we discuss distorted perceptions. It is like that funny mirror you see at a circus. What we are saying is another thing entirely from what is being interpreted.”

The Hammer Forum is an ongoing series of timely, thought-provoking events addressing current social and political issues. All Hammer Forum events are public and free.



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