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September 13, 2010
Relational Interfaith Communication

There's what you might perceive as a gathering wave of public relations currents about how to perceive of Muslims in America. We surely hope it breaks in favor of mutual understanding and acceptance. With tensions in New York and abroad over relations with Muslim communities, open and honest interfaith communication is one of the most important aspects of our times.

We saw providential communication occurring as Pastor Terry Jones cancelled his plan for burning Korans at his Florida church on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11.

And in a helpful review of the Muslim American relational scene, SignOn San Diego noted that Edgar Hopida, public-relations director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, "encouraged fellow Muslims to invite their non-Muslim neighbors to a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner in La Jolla." He said about 50 people accepted the invitation to air their questions about Islam, and roughly half of them essentially had no knowledge of the religion.

'“You got the common questions,' said Hopida, a second-generation Filipino-American who converted to Islam when he was a university student. 'Does Islam teach people to kill people who are not Muslims? Are Muslims intolerant of other faiths?'”

Most American Muslims are striving to improve life for their families, like everyone else. "“The thing in the United States is that American Muslims feel like they’re part of America,” says John Evans, a sociology professor at the University of California San Diego, “Most of their kids just want to go to Caltech.” 

Yet tensions over the proposed mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York likely are to persist, along with unpredictable headlines from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Public relations specialists can remain alert to opportunities to bring understanding and tolerance among faith communities.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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