The Georgetown University Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding has been working to promote understanding of the uslim community and the Islamic faith in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by fanatical Muslims.

“We are doing eight hours or more of media work a day in this crisis,” John Esposito, director of CMCU, said. “We are explaining to people what Islam is about and why [terrorism] is not a part of the mainstream faith.”

Esposito said he and his colleagues have been increasingly called upon to discuss Muslim-Christian relations in the media. He said the CMCU focuses on helping the 1.5 billion Christians and 1.3 billion Muslims interact internationally with mutual understanding and respect.

Esposito said the CMCU feels Americans need to be educated about the Islamic faith in order to understand that its tenets do not advocate terrorism.

“The average American is not able to distinguish extremists from the mainstream faith, which fosters hate,” Esposito said. He said radical Christian groups are easily identified by American society as extremist and not seen as true examples of the Christian ideology, but in the case of Islam, many Americans still equate extremists with the true Muslim faith.

But Esposito did also say that on the positive side, many Americans seem to be exercising care in making the distinction.

He added that the U.S. must be sure to measure its response to the attacks.

“[Long-term] solutions have to be economic, cultural and political,” he said. “The U.S. has to address the issues that foster anti-American feeling.”

The CMCU organized a teach-in last week titled, “The U.S., Terrorism and Islam”

that featured lectures and information sessions from various professors involved with the Center. In addition to regularly scheduled focus groups, workshops and speakers, the CMCU is planning a presentation on the stereotypes facing Muslims in the West for the coming weeks. Also, a national conference on Islam and the West is planned for the spring.

Esposito said the situation for Muslims in the U.S. could get worse before it improves. Esposito said he is certain that, as the second largest religious group in the world and the second- or third-largest faith in the United States, Muslims will begin to play a larger role in American society. The CMCU hopes to help uslims in the West “. find their identity and empower their community. [We will] increasingly continue to develop institutions that provide representation in the American public square [for Muslims].”

As an internationally-known expert in the field of relations between Islam and the West, Esposito has been quoted in numerous media publications both in the U.S. and abroad, including The New York Times, CNN and the BBC.

Founded at Georgetown in 1993, the goal of the CMCU is to promote understanding and acceptance between Muslims and Christians as the two cultures become increasingly linked in the U.S. and internationally.

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