When we meet a person for the first time – let’s be honest – we judge that person based on their appearance. We see a kind face or a harsh face… We see a well-dressed person or a slob… We see youth or signs of age… These are extreme examples of the types of judgements we make consciously and unconsciously.
Some of us are better at shaking off that first impression, while the rest of us need to get to know a person before our opinion changes for good or bad.
When it comes to Muslims, many of us do not have an opportunity to get beyond the first impression, especially if we don’t have any direct contact with Muslims. We see a hijab or a long beard and automatically make associations with whatever stereotype is imbedded in our subconscious.
A little experiment
Complete the sentences below…
All Muslims are ________
Muslims make me feel __________
When I see a Muslim I ____________
If your words are negative, don’t worry. Your response may just be a reflection of the associations that have been planted in your subconscious by the news, television programmes, politicians, church leaders, friends, etc.
The more aware you become of the things that influence your thinking, the more likely you are to stop and question an automatic thought. In other words, if you struggle with negative feelings towards Muslims, you have the power to change this.
See also: Muslim perceptions of Christians.