By JOE GRIMM
MSU School of Journalism
Try this quick fill-in-the-blank quiz:
Today’s greatest threat to American values is _______________.
Clue: This threat could erase American values written on everything from the Statue of Liberty to the Liberty Bell, up to the Constitution and right down to the money in your wallet.
Correct answers: The right responses fear, intolerance and lack of knowledge about Muslims.
Muslims, who have lived here for centuries, come to the United States precisely for those values. Some have fought and died to protect them. But now fear threatens to blank out some American values. Stoking these fears, as some activists are doing right now, is dangerous on many levels.
A Michigan State University journalism class is stepping into this volatile information gap. This ongoing class—often referred to as Bias Busters—produces well-researched, clear, accessible guides to cultural competence. The plan is to use the best journalistic practices to replace bias and stereotype with facts. So far, these students have published eight guides in their series—all books available easily from Amazon.
The need to fill in some blanks was evident even a year ago when the students’ Muslim guide came out. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center reported that 62 percent of Americans surveyed said they did not know any Muslims. The same study said that Americans’ warmth toward Muslims was cooling.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
NOW, in light of current events, we put the digital edition of 100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans on sale for 99 cents, less than a penny an answer.
Orders are up. The Detroit Free Press published excerpts from the guide on Thursday. On Friday, a campus police department asked for more information. On Saturday, Maynard Institute journalism columnist Richard Prince made the guide one of his year-end recommended reads.
This is what we need. More reading, questioning and conversation among Muslim and non-Muslims Americans can help us fill in the blanks. And this knowledge can help us keep ourselves from blanking out the values that define our country.
Joe Grimm is visiting editor in residence in the Michigan State University School of Journalism and editor of this series of guides to cultural competence. The series includes guides on Hispanics and Latinos, Arab Americans, Native Americans. East Asian cultures, Americans, U.S. veterans and Indian Americans. Guides on African Americans adn American Jews are expected soon.