Why You Haven’t Heard of the Aga Khan

There is so much more to the Muslim religion than the broken record of terrorism and extremism the media perpetuates. Ismaili Muslims, for example, have a religious leader, the Aga Khan, who is responsible for $625 million worth of philanthropic programs all across the world that nobody knows about. We should be hearing more about him.

The Aga Khan’s work is newsworthy, and the media should be focusing more on the contributions of the Muslim community rather than on the small percentage of Muslims who terrorize the world.

There are several occasions where the media has exaggerated the threat that extremists pose. For example, several reporters from Fox News were spreading fear and terror when it came to the Syrian refugee situation. Andrea Tantaros described taking Islamic refugees as suicide, it would be a national security threat to admit any Muslims into this country. Bill O’Reilly also suggested that allowing refugees into the United States would open the door for terrorists.

But the Migration Policy Institute says posing as a refugee is the least likely way that a terrorist would try to get into the United States. If a refugee is selected to go through the migration process, they are put in contact with the FBI and go through an intense 18-to-24-month screening process. It does not make sense for a terrorist to seek out screening by the FBI. The FBI reported that from 1980 to 2005, 94 percent of terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. From this, it is clear that Fox is simply spreading misinformation.

A Huffington Post article explains that it is not only Fox News that is spreading a message of Islamophobia. After the Paris attacks, CNN anchor John Vause asked anti-Islamophobia activist Yasser Louati “Why is it that no one within the Muslim community there in France knew what these guys were up to?” Louati responded, “Sir, the Muslim community has nothing to do with these guys — nothing…we cannot justify ourselves for the actions of someone who just claims to be Muslim.” Vause was associating the extremists with the peaceful Muslim community and insinuating that they should be preventing these acts of terror.

According to a Gallup poll, 34 percent of Muslims in the United States feel like they are not treated fairly. This poll also revealed that 36 percent of people who claim to have no prejudice towards Muslims believe that Muslims are not accepting of other religions and one-third of the same group does not have favorable views of Islam. If the media spent more time reporting on people like the Aga Khan, these numbers would be different.

The exposure we have to Muslims in the media is concentrated, for the most part, on the radicals. When my professor, Dr. Lee Huebner, asked a class full of politically and civic minded students if they knew who or what the Aga Khan was, everybody shook their heads no. Nobody knew who he was because the media focuses on the sensational side of the Islamic religion rather than the meaningful.

The Aga Khan is to the Ismaili Muslims as the Pope is to the Catholics, explained Huebner. Huebner is currently consulting  for the Aga Khan Development Network. The current Aga Khan is Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini.

“The developed country he is most popular in is Canada,“ Huebner said. “He gave a lecture last fall at Harvard and nobody thought it was newsworthy.”

The Ismailis are a moderate sect of Islam and a division of the Shia Muslims. Core beliefs of their religion are community service and pluralism. They believe that the Aga Khan is a descendant of the prophet Muhammad.   

The Aga Khan serves as the chairman of his Development Network, which focuses on providing aid to developing world. Each year, the Network generates electricity for 10 million people, creates programs to achieve food security for 8 million, and provides healthcare for 5 million.

After millions of dollars donated and lives changed, the American people still do not know who the Aga Khan is. Terror in the media overshadows all the contributions the Muslim community has to offer. The Muslim religion is misunderstood and the first step to changing the perception has to start with the media coverage.  

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