Western media mispresenting Islam -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Western media mispresenting Islam

KARACHI- An American Scholar on Islamic studies and Comparative Religion Dr. Carl W. Ernst has blamed western media for painting a negative picture of Islam and Muslims among Americans.

As there is very little knowledge about Islam in America so when news about Osama Bin Laden and Taliban come into media the American have impression of extremisrn and antagonism against the Muslims, said Dr. Ernst in an exclusive interview.

It is a political and sociological phenomena and this impression can only be minimised through people’s interaction, opined Dr. Ernst, who is working in Department of Religious Students at the University of North Carolina, USA as a professor and its Chairman.

Dr Carl Ernst has done research work on Islam and Sufism history with particular reference to South Asian Islamic culture and published a number of books and research papers on this subject. His book “Teachings of Sufism” was published in 1999.

Dr Ernst remained associated with noted German scholar Dr. Annemarie Schimmel during his studies on Sufism. The American Scholar said that when his students come to his class they have very little knowledge about lslam. “Within a few weeks they (students) know about Islam at least 100 times more than an average person and they feel excited to learn more about Islam,” he added. He said through studying Sufism, Americans and Europeans can know Islam in a much more positive way.

It is interesting to note that Jalaluddin Rumi is the most popular mystic poet in America these days. People are interested in his humanitarian and cultural aspects of poetry. Noted Qawal, late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was also very popular in the West because of his different style of singing. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s style of Qawali was a blend of western and traditional music, which inspired the people, although his audience does not understand his words, said Dr. Ernst.

Dr Ernst said South Asia’s Islamic culture is different from Test of the Muslim cultures. Its history is different from the history of Iran and Egypt. South Asian Muslims are one-third of the total Muslim population, but in America most people imagine that Arabs are in majority, which is not true. Arab Muslims are less than 20 per cent of the total Muslim population, he added. In his opinion Sufism is not different from Islam, He said that initially Sufism was basically a part of Muslim life and it was never challenged or questioned before 1800. However, he said after 1800 it became questionable.

Actively involved in North Carolina Centre for South Asian Studies, Dr. Ernst said that the centre is holding regular lectures and conferences on different subjects and contemporary issues. He has been a research fellow American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS). The institute funded by over 20 universities through US Department of Education has been sending American scholars to Pakistan to do research on various subjects. He said very soon, the centre would set up its branch in lslamabad with a separate director and library is well as seminar facilities. “We hold conferences, in which Pakistani scholars are invited to deliver their views and present their papers,” he said adding that a conference would soon be held in Pakistan also.

Source: The Nation
Date:7/15/2000