Working to Enhance Understanding [Archives:1997/51/Law & Diplomacy]

December 22 1997

between Arab and American Peoples
Mr. Craig Findley has for the past several months been working closely with his father in trying to develop TV, print and radio advertising in the USA in an attempt to portray some simple truths about Islam and to overcome as, Mr. Findley Sr. says, the negative stereotype that many Americans hold about Muslims and about Islam.
Q: Do you have an idea about the Yemeni community in USA. A: In fact I know nothing. All I know about Yemen is reading the Yemen Times web site in my computer.
Q: Is it your first visit to Yemen ? A: I hope it could be the first of many visits I have waited for a long time to make this trip.
Q: Why do most Americans have a negative idea about Islam? A: Americans only know about Yemen and other Arab and Muslim countries from the press. For instance, they hear that tourists are kidnapped in Yemen. Of course that is a very small matter in this country, but if the American press will print only one item a week or one item a month about Yemen then that is all Americans will know. The same applies to Islam in the USA. The press in my country portray Arabs in a very negative manner. There is very little in the press that attempts to bridge the cultural and religious commonalties between Muslims and Christians. I think the possible way to do that effectively is through advertising and doing it in a very simple and subtle way.
Q: Does the bad image of Islam within the American mentality affect the foreign policy of the USA? A: I can hardly think otherwise. We seem to get only one view of what is offered to find a just peace. My father is trying to engage American Muslims and become them involved in political process. My focus is strictly education. We call the project Understanding Islam. I want people to feel more comfortable with their Muslim neighbors, and to realize that Christians, Muslims and Jews as well people from all other religions worship the same God. They must appreciate that Muslims respect the teachings of Jesus and that there is even a ‘sora’ in the Quran which speaks of Mary. Most Christians have no idea of the things they have in common with Muslims. Few Christians realize anything about the contributions the Islamic world made to mathematics, science, art, literature and medicine. Those things will not be known unless those stories can be told in the very simple way. I think Americans will open wider and we will begin to get along much better together.
Q: Does the Muslim community in America play any role in explaining Islam to people? A: Every time there is an incident around the world in which terrorism is involved or which is associated with Muslims, American Muslims simply go inside and keep to themselves. It is easier just to say nothing and to do nothing. I don’t criticize American Muslims. They are leaders in business, science, engineering and medicine. They are not leaders in politics and until they become leaders in politics I think it will be difficult for them to speak out.
Q: Do you have any other people working for “Understanding Islam” from America or other countries? A: We have many friends working closely with religious organizations around the country to try and develop these messages but it is mostly a labor of mine and a labor of my father.
Q: Do you want to add anything? A: I hope that my American friends will have the chance to see Yemen as we have seen it this week. It is a very long trip from the USA to Yemen but it is worthwhile.