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Educating Americans about Muslim Voices

President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo furthered his stated goal of extending a hand of friendship to the Muslim world, and engaging it with a commitment to mutual respect. But the sad fact that most Americans remain woefully ignorant about the basic facts of Islam, and about the broad geographic and cultural diversity of Muslim cultures.

NEW YORK – President Barack Obama has extended an open hand of friendship in his landmark Cairo speech to the Muslim world – seeking to engage Muslims with a commitment of mutual respect. No one can doubt his sincerity. From his first days in office, he has emphasized the importance of embarking on a new chapter in relations between the United States and the world’s Muslims.

But this aspiration will remain elusive without acknowledging the sad fact that most Americans remain woefully ignorant about the basic facts of Islam, and about the broad geographic and cultural diversity of Muslim cultures.

A majority of public opinion polls taken in the last four years show that the views of Americans about Islam continue to be a casualty of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Washington Post/ABC News polls from 2006, for example, found that nearly half of Americans regard Islam “unfavorably,” while one in four admits to prejudicial feelings against Muslims.

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