A PROJECT OF MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING
My name is Marjorie Anne Foster and I am a trained journalist and a practicing Christian seeking to understand how my occupational community and religious community have been impacting a religious group in such destructive ways. I am currently a senior at Elon University where I will graduate in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and minors in Asian Studies, Interreligious Studies and Environmental Education. I am born and raised in South Carolina and that is where this project got its roots.
My background in the conservative Christian church left me with a lot of unanswered questions about different faiths and the way we are called to interact with them. Upon arriving to college, I asked myself which faith I knew the least about and landed on Islam. The following years I devoted myself to taking courses on the religion, reading a variety of texts, receiving a research grant, spending a semester in Indonesia and producing what you see here. After being welcomed into countless Muslim homes and communities, being greeted with appreciation and profound grace, I learned that despite the increase in overt hatred, these students have the desire (and patience) to help outsiders understand their religion, and for that I am deeply grateful.
This website is a product of a two-year undergraduate research project that analyzes the experiences of college-age Muslims in North Carolina and examines how they negotiate their religious identities in the face of stigmatization, Islamophobia, and political and social turmoil. In addition to the 45 formal interviews I conducted with students from universities in North Carolina, dozens of related, informal conversations formed a vital background to this study. In this website you will get a glimpse into the identities of the current generation of college students who are definitively shaped by the policies and general Islamophobia that characterizes the Trump presidency, broader anti-Muslim rhetoric, and mass shootings and attacks targeting Muslims.
According to a recent Pew Research Study, only 38% of Americans say they know a Muslim. In my research I found that if someone knew a Muslim, they were quick to reject stereotypes of Muslims and replace them with their own personal experiences. We fear what we do not know, and it is time to extinguish the mistruths American Muslim communities have been carrying.
This project would not have been possible without the support of so many individuals. Each and every student I interviewed welcomed me into their lives and let me ask difficult, and often times awkward questions, without any hesitation. I am so grateful for their willingness to support me and the friendships we have created. Without the support of Elon University's Mulitfaith Scholars program, cohort and mentors, none of this would have been possible. I would like to give a special thanks to Program Director and Mentor Dr. Amy Allocco and Mentor Dr. Glenn Scott for there loving support throughout this project. Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends for the constant encouragement and support they have offered me through the years.
To watch a speech given by Foster on the personal impacts her research made on her faith, click here.
To learn more about Foster's research, read her latest papers here: Negotiating Islamophobia: The Experiences of College-Age Muslims in North Carolina and Framing Muslims in the Era of the Trump Presidency: Examining Media Sites and Its Impact on Muslim Communities in the United States.