Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2016

Document Type

Thesis: Open Access

Degree Name

MA Leadership Studies


Leadership Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Afsaneh Nahavandi

Committee Co-Chair

Dr. Zachary Green


Muslims across the United States are experiencing an unprecedented increase in discrimination and violence due to a growing fear and hatred towards Islam and Muslims. Many educators have labeled this anti-Islamic phenomenon as Islamophobia”. Several studies have addressed the existence of Islamophobia” and discussed its impact on the Muslim community and society at-large. However, few studies focus on helping Muslims transcend their mindset and believe in their ability to challenge prejudice and promote mutual understanding. This two- phase research attempted to fill that gap by first looking at the impact of contact relations and education in reducing Islamophobia and then considering the role of the Imams in that process.

The first study surveyed 189 people who visited the Islamic Center of San Diego to evaluate the effectiveness of its educational and outreach program. More than ninety percent of the participants in the first survey indicate that following their visit, their stereotype changed, and that they gained a balanced view about Islam. Ninety-nine percent of the participants find the presentation very interesting and more than ninety-three percent indicate that observing the prayer and touring the Mosque were effective.

The first study indicates that contact and education decrease prejudice and shows the effectiveness of the educational program provided at the center.

The second study examined the role of the faith leaders, or “Imams,” in raising global awareness and providing accurate information about Islam by building relations based on mutual respect and understanding. The results from the 9 Imams who completed the survey indicate that there is a gap between their espoused and enacted values, between what they say they stand for and what they actually do. While all the surveyed Imams believe that the responsibility of the Mosque and Imams is enormous in dispelling the misconceptions about Islam. Only three of them agree on the need for setting consistent interfaith work as well as having concrete goals.

Although limited to one location and based on a small sample of Imams, the information from these two studies can be used to improve educational programs and propose ways to increase contact. It further points to the need of a more active role from the Muslim community in helping to dispel Islamophobia.