Countering Islamophobia and Collective Blame

Understanding & Reducing Anti-Muslim Bias that Blames an Entire Culture for Individual Acts

Muslims are one of the most disliked and dehumanized groups in the West, including the United States. Persistent and growing Islamophobia has severe consequences, both for Muslims and non-Muslims: higher levels of dehumanization of Muslims predicts support for violence against Muslims, both in the US and abroad, and can prevent comprehensive and effective solutions to address the global challenges of religious intolerance. Although this is a persistent problem, with serious consequences, little research has been devoted to understand it and examine possible interventions to find a solution to it. Beyond Conflict Innovation Lab focuses on understanding what drives anti-Muslim hostility and build and test new, targeted interventions to reduce Islamophobia and anti-Muslim behavior. As part of the problem, the Muslim community tends to be collectively blamed for the acts of individual terrorists, while other groups don’t usually face this challenge. The Innovation Lab aims to explore the cognitive mechanisms at the heart of anti-Muslim bias that leads an entire culture to be blamed for individual acts. We have developed and tested video interventions with experimental audiences and evaluated the short term and lasting effectiveness of the videos used. The videos reduced Islamophobic sentiment amongst viewers and changes in attitude about collective blame. Successful interventions have the potential to lead to the creation of a public messaging campaign designed to directly target Islamophobia and endorsement of anti-Muslim policies. Additionally, it could produce training tools for journalists, leaders of faith, cultural and grassroots organizations. The mechanisms explored can likely generalize to other forms of discrimination and can be used in the future to set the conditions for more fruitful interactions between groups or to address individual and systemic drivers of racism and discrimination.  


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