Dalia Mogahed is an American scholar of Egyptian origin who has an admirable career. She is the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, and is also President and CEO of Mogahed Consulting, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in Muslim societies and the Middle East. She is the former Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslims Studies, a non-partisan research center which provides data and analysis that reflects the views of Muslims around the world. And if this wasn’t already very impressive, she was selected as an advisor by President Obama on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership.
Mogahed describes herself as a practicing, spiritual Muslim. A decision she took at age 17, when she “[came] out as a Muslim.” Unlike many may think, she was not conditioned or forced to believe; it was her own choice.
In late February, Dalia Mogahed delivered a TED talk where she encouraged people to rethink their perceptions of Muslims. “What do you see when you look at me? A woman of faith? An expert? Maybe even a sister. Or oppressed, brainwashed, a terrorist,” Mogahed asked.
As she explained, many Americans have never met a Muslim person, so their opinions on this religion and its followers may be formed by what they see in the news, which is often negative.
This became especially critical after the September 11th attacks, when “somebody else’s actions turned [her] from a citizen to a suspect.” The Muslim community in America became target to many critics, which are today stronger than ever.
Mogahed wants to fight common misunderstandings about Muslims and how they are portrayed by American media outlets. With the rise of ISIS, Islam has been growingly seen as a violent religion, but as she says, “ISIS has as much to do with Islam as the Ku Klux Klan has to do with Christianity.”
Closing down mosques is not the way to make America safer. Dalia Mogahed continues saying that people don’t actually get radicalized at mosques, that it actually happens online, in front of a computer, when that person “gets cut off from their community.” So, in order to “prevent radicalization, we have to keep people going to the mosque.”
As stated by Club de Madrid’s Global Consensus, “religion can intensify conflicts or be a force for good. It is the way that beliefs are held and ideologies are exercised that makes the difference.” Religion in itself shouldn’t be blamed for violent extremism.
During the TED talk, Mogahed said violent extremist groups that back their ideologies with religious beliefs are “not motivated by what they read in their holy book. It’s their brutality that makes them read these things into the scripture.”
Dalia Mogahed concluded saying Muslims are ordinary people, “they want prosperity for their family, they want jobs and they want to live in peace.” She challenged the audience with a simple question; “What [perception] will you choose?”