Breaking Down Cultural Barriers
Students, faculty, and staff listen to Dr. Munir Jiwa's presentation on the five media pillars of Islam. Photo courtesy of Allison Birr.

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers

Dr. Munir Jiwa gave students and community members an insightful look into the five ‘media pillars’ of Islam on Sept. 25, detailing the main reasons he believes people have preconceived judgments about Islamic and Muslim cultures.

Jiwa explained that sometimes the framing of a subject could affect the way we relate to that subject. His lecture explained that society needs to acknowledge the way media shapes our mental structures and be mindful of those frames.

Jiwa talked about how the media portrays Islamic culture. He said the tragedy of 9/11 sparked backlash against Muslims. He said reacting to tragedy with hatred toward an entire culture does not solve anything. It only makes matters worse.

Jiwa pointed out that violence perpetrated to people is shocking and yet the violence society hands out is less shocking. He explains it is necessary to think about things within a wider context of the world, not just what is initially seen or felt.

Dr. Munir Jiwa gives presentation on the five media pillars of Islam. Photo courtesy of Allison Birr.

Dr. Munir Jiwa gives presentation on the five media pillars of Islam. Photo courtesy of Allison Birr

Jiwa said the words “al-Qaeda” and “Taliban” are used so often that they are now English words.

Jiwa also described a study in “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think,” in which Muslims were asked about their dreams for the future. None answered with hopes of further violence. Instead, they wanted better careers.

According to Jiwa, the main learning tool for people is the media and how these groups are portrayed through various outlets. He said this is where the problem lies.

“I had no idea that most Muslims in the world are located in Indonesia and not the Middle East,” said international studies major Rudy Lange.

UWSP was proud to host this event as an educational experience for students and community members.

“This opportunity came to me through a connection with John Viste at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County,” said music professor David Hastings. “Dean Cirmo and respected faculty expressed great interest in hosting Jiwa. “This opportunity allowed us to offer an inclusive learning experience through Munir Jiwa’s research and work.”

From the study, Jiwa said Muslims around the world were asked what they least admire about the west. The main answer was its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values. Ironically enough, Americans gave a similar response when asked the same question.

According to the study, Muslims across the globe say the one thing the west can do to improve relations with their societies is to give one thing; respect.

Jiwa explains society needs to push media portrayals aside and look at the different versions of every story in order to figure out where we come in and how we relate to that story.

Sophie Stickelmaier

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